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Memory / Mirage

Now, this is interesting: a reflection on Brian WiIliams and the elusive nature of memory.


If retrieving memory is a process—and recounting it a performance—then there are numerous ways its accuracy can derail. Daniel Schacter, a professor of psychology at Harvard, has spent his career researching those ways. In The Seven Sins of Memory,he notes how “binding failures,” which happen when memory latches onto an inaccurate detail and deems it true, create “confusions between events we actually experience and those we only think about or imagine.” Our innate suggestibility tempts us to weave extraneous details from subsequent events—conversing with friends, absorbing miscellaneous media bytes, reading a novel—into the fabric of our original recollection. The gist remains (you know you landed in a helicopter in a desert amid a frisson of danger) but, as Schacter and others explain, the specifics can blur into impressions that in some cases disappear altogether. It’s not exactly a comforting thought, but every time we return to the incident, we take a different route to reach it and, in turn, come home with a slightly—or not so slightly—different story. The mind never remembers the same way twice.