Don’t trust your memories
Have you ever vividly remembered what you did in a particular instance, only to have someone smugly show you actual photographs that clearly proves that something entirely different happened instead? Don’t worry. You’re not going mad – it’s just another weird brain anomaly.
The nature of memories
Even though your memories might seem undisputable and absolute, they are in fact just strings of reference points and associations. When you later want to recall what happened, your brain will look for any relevant references and string them together to form the memory we experience. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have actual voice and video recordings in our brains of all that we’ve ever seen and heard.
This obviously leaves our memories wide open for interpretations and amendments at the point of recalling, and you might find yourself remembering the same things slightly differently at different points in your life.
Multilingual childhood memories
As an example, my childhood memories of growing up in Stockholm, Sweden have been amended in the last few years to now be in English, even though I know for a fact the were in Swedish before I moved to the UK.
This is strangely unsettling, as my whole view on my childhood experiences is called into question. In the end though, they still seem to be fairly correct, they’ve just been translated into English (and it is kind of funny to remember things said in English by people who can’t actually speak a word of English in real life!).
And this is kind of the point: your memories are not a record of real life. They are just a record of what you’ve experienced and how you felt about it at the time. Memories are consequently not suitable as evidence in a court of law, and the whole idea of eye witnesses should be carefully reconsidered.
What to trust in?
I know this concept is rather unsettling and it might be difficult to accept, but the fact of the matter is: what you remember might not actually have happened. At least not the way you remember it. Which is probably why we started taking minutes at important meetings.
So the next time you’re about to confidently state ‘I think I know what I said!‘, stop. Think. And remember that you probably don’t..