Table of contents:

We Are Deceived By Our Own Memory! What Are The Violations And Errors Of Memory - Self-development
We Are Deceived By Our Own Memory! What Are The Violations And Errors Of Memory - Self-development

Video: We Are Deceived By Our Own Memory! What Are The Violations And Errors Of Memory - Self-development

Video: We Are Deceived By Our Own Memory! What Are The Violations And Errors Of Memory - Self-development
Video: Tricks of Consciousness 2023, December

Memories are not only sentimental images of the past that we plunge into before bed. They form our unique life experience, our knowledge, skills and relationships with other people, and sometimes even someone's life depends on memories. But is this source of information so reliable? What are memory errors?

Memory is the basis of our consciousness - without the ability to memorize, store, reproduce and recognize information, it would be impossible to learn, communicate, or even understand ourselves. It is not for nothing that with complex forms of amnesia, the patient's personality undergoes dramatic changes, up to complete disintegration 1.

Memories form the basis of various types of information: scribes "from memory" compiled chronicles, navigators - maps of continents and oceans, and in literature memoirs (from the French "mémoires", which means "memories" in translation) are completely isolated and well developed genre. Witness testimony, that is, the story of eyewitnesses that they remember certain events, can become the basis for a criminal charge and even the death penalty.

However, despite the fact that the value of the information stored in memory is unusually great, its reliability can be very doubtful. And the point is not only that many details or details are forgotten exactly at the moment when they are needed, but also that we can remember events and facts with complete clarity and precision … which in reality never existed.

What was not. Memory impairment

Scientists distinguish two types of reasons why a person's memory may contain information that does not correspond to his real experience. The first is memory impairments, which are collectively called "paramnesia" - distortion or replacement of the content of memories associated with the peculiarities of the functioning of certain parts of the cerebral cortex 1.

Paramnesias include the following types of memory disorders:

  • Pseudo - reminiscences are the replacement of "gaps" in memory with events that happened to a person in reality, but at a completely different time. An example of a pseudo-reminiscence is the assurance of an elderly man, who has not left his home for several months, that he went to work yesterday, talked with colleagues and returned home by bus.
  • Confabulations are a phenomenon in which events lost in memory are replaced by fictional events that never happened to a person in reality. A person suffering from such a disorder can vividly and colorfully describe, for example, his experience of communicating with aliens who allegedly abducted him for laboratory research and then returned him back.
  • Cryptomnesia is a person's “appropriation” of information received from external sources as his own memories. Thus, a person can clearly “remember” how he participated in the events described in a fiction book, or consider himself the author of poems written long before his birth.
  • Echomnesia is a feeling that what is happening to a person at the present moment has already happened to him in the past. For example, for the first time in his life, a hospitalized patient claims that he has already been in this clinic and in this ward, but cannot remember exactly when and under what circumstances this happened.

What determines the formation of paramnesia? First of all, their occurrence is associated with a weakening or impairment of the activity of the frontal lobes due to age-related changes, craniocerebral trauma, hemorrhages, or simply the immaturity of the frontal zone of the brain, characteristic of early childhood 2. There are also data showing that dysfunction of other brain structures can play a role in memory impairment: the temporal and prefrontal cortex 3, the hippocampus 4, etc.

Some mental illnesses can also lead to false or distorted memories - for example, echomezias are part of the symptomatology in schizophrenia 5 - or even extreme fatigue - for example, with chronic sleep deprivation 6.

It was, but not so. Memory errors

The second reason why we can remember not at all what was in reality - "memory biases", or " memory errors " - cognitive distortions associated with the influence of physiological and psychological factors on the content or reproduction of once assimilated information 7.

What are memory errors? These include:

  • retroactive interference - distortion of memories under the influence of information obtained later - for example, the statement of a witness that he saw the knife in the hands of the attacker, although he only learned about the fact of using the knife during the investigation;
  • telescope effect - a distortion of the time perspective of memory, in which events that occurred in the distant past seem relatively recent, and recent events appear distant in time - for example, an elderly person's assessment of the events of his youth: "It was as if it happened yesterday";
  • the illusion of constancy - the recollection of a person's past behavior or beliefs as "the same as now", despite their real change - for example, when a mother-in-law speaks of a former son-in-law who abandoned her daughter: "He behaved like a scoundrel from the very beginning!" even if at the beginning of their acquaintance he showed himself quite worthily;
  • egocentric distortion - attributing to oneself in the past greater successes and advantages than they really were - for example, when a father, who once barely graduated from school, assures his son that he studied "with almost one grade".

Looking for reasons

There are several theories to explain how memory distortions and errors occur - how false or distorted memories arise.

Neural trace theory

The theory of the neural trace considers the psychophysiological correlates of memory - the so-called engrams 8. An engram is a series of molecular changes that strengthen the connection between a specific sequence of neurons in the cerebral cortex. This connection underlies the mechanism of associations: when one of the neurons is excited, there is a "habitual" activation of the entire chain that makes up the neural trace - so, when looking at a photograph of a famous singer, a person "scrolls" his song in his head. If the relationship between the regions of the cortex that is "responsible" for a particular memory is disrupted - this can occur as a result of trauma or the "overlay" of a later association - the neural trace is "confused", which leads to distortion or loss of memories.

Psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory explains the emergence of altered memories by the mechanism of psychological defenses, i.e. unconscious adaptation of the psyche to traumatic effects 9. From the point of view of classical psychoanalysis, there are several basic types of such defenses: rationalization, substitution, projection, sublimation, regression, or denial. Their common essence is to change the perception of reality, including in the past, in such a way as to protect the psyche from a destructive internal conflict between, especially with a strong emotional shock. Thus, a child who has been abused by his father, in an older age, "replaces" real memory with a constructed image of a caring parent.

Gestalt theory

Gestalt theory pays special attention to the structuring of the material that forms the basis of memories 10. According to this approach, a person tries to find the most understandable and logical, from his point of view, the relationship between memorized objects: events, facts, people, etc. In cases where this connection is not confirmed, the memories are "adjusted" to the subject's internal logic: for example, a person who has shown aggression towards a weaker one claims that the victim “provoked” him with his behavior, and even if there is evidence, does not agree that this “provocation” existed only in his imagination.

In addition, there is a whole series of works proving that the ability to memorize and correctly reproduce information is significantly reduced in situations of acute or chronic stress, with depressive and anxiety disorders, etc. 11 Researchers associate such distortions and errors in memory with a complex and not yet fully understood complex of physiological, psychological and social processes.

Dealing with the consequences

What to do with the fact that memory errors occur regularly, memory can let us down - and this, in general, is the norm of its functioning? Let's try to highlight the most important steps:

  1. Define priorities.

    In fact, far from all the information stored in our "head" needs accurate and detailed reproduction. There is nothing wrong with slightly embellishing, say, romantic memories of meeting your future spouse - but it is better to remember the content of important business negotiations in as much detail as possible.

  2. Use external supports.

    To accurately record the necessary information, you can use a variety of tools: mnemonics (special techniques that allow you to structure information that is difficult to perceive in the form of a rhymed phrase or a vivid image), audio and video recording, notes in a notebook or in a mobile application. All this allows you to "refresh" memories at the moment when they are needed, in their original form.

  3. Train your thinking skills.

    Regular, but at the same time not prohibitive mental stress is an excellent way to prevent “age-related” forgetfulness. Their content depends on the interests and priorities of the person himself: someone likes to solve chess problems at their leisure, someone likes to learn new languages, and for someone scientific or technical creativity is a profession at all. It is important, however, to remember that prolonged stress without rest is fraught with the opposite result: the brain "overloaded" with work tasks turns on the mechanism of "transcendental inhibition", which sharply reduces the ability to concentrate, remember and reproduce information.

However, the benefits of these actions are not only to protect memories from cognitive distortions. The ability to highlight what is important, structure information and fix it with auxiliary means and correctly allocate time between physical and mental activity and rest helps prevent memory errors, stay not only in solid memory, but also in sane mind. And this, you see, is rarely superfluous.


  1. Zharikov N. M., Tyulpin Yu. G. Psychiatry: Textbook. - M.: Medical Information Agency, 2012.-- 832 p.
  2. Schacter DL, Kagan J., Leichtman MD True and false memories in children and adults: A cognitive neuroscience perspective // Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. - 1995. - V. 1. - No. 2. - P. 411-428.
  3. Devitt AL, Schacter DL False memories with age: Neural and cognitive underpinnings // Neuropsychologia. - 2016.-- T. 91.-- S. 346-359.
  4. Vartanov A. V. et al. Human memory and anatomical features of the hippocampus // Bulletin of Moscow University. Series 14. Psychology. - 2009. - No. 4. - S. 3-16.
  5. International classification of diseases ICD-10. Electronic version. - URL:
  6. Frenda SJ et al. Sleep deprivation and false memories // Psychological Science. - 2014. - V. 25. - No. 9. - P. 1674-1681.
  7. McRaney D. Psychology of stupidity. The delusions that prevent us from living. - M.: Alpina Business Books, 2012.-- 344 p.
  8. Fundamentals of psychophysiology: textbook / Otv. ed. Yu. I. Alexandrov. - M.: Infra-M, 1997.-- 349 p.
  9. Belov V. G., Biryukova G. M., Fedorenko V. V. Psychological protection and its role in the formation of the human adaptive system // Humanization of education. - 2009. - No. 3. - S. 66-72.
  10. Dekatova K. I. The role of gestalt in the process of meaning formation of signs of indirectly derived nomination // Acta Linguistica. - 2007. - T. 1. - No. 1. - S. 63-68.
  11. Dalgleish T. et al. Patterns of processing bias for emotional information across clinical disorders: A comparison of attention, memory, and prospective cognition in children and adolescents with depression, generalized anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder // Journal of clinical child and adolescent psychology. - 2003. - V. 32. - No. 1. - P. 10-21.