What if I told you that most of what we remember (do we even remember that much?) is inaccurate? That we reconstruct our memories; that we reconstruct even what we see with our eyes?
That’s precisely what Leonard Mlodinow describes in his “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.” He writes that “no matter what you are doing with your conscious mind, it is your unconscious that dominates your mental activity–and therefore uses up most of the energy consumed by the brain. Regardless of whether your conscious mind is idle or engaged, your unconscious mind is hard at work doing the mental equivalent of push-ups, squats, and wind sprints.”
In describing the physics of what we see, Mlodinow says that the eye senses only a small portion of the environment. Let’s say you’re looking at a picture you took.
Mlodinow and physics tell us that the raw eye can only see a small portion of that picture of the lake, mountains, clouds, and trees from the image. The rest we are literally blind to. And yet, we see the full picture because your mind FILLS IN the rest of the image with a mental concept, an idea, of what more or less matches what is being seen. This is why eyewitness testimony is pretty unreliable. Everyone sees different things. He writes that “because of all that processing, when we say, ‘I see a chair,’ what we really mean is that our brain has created a mental model of a chair.” The world we know then, is only a mental model that our brains create.
When it comes to memory it is even more difficult because memory is not like your computer’s storage space where everything can be summoned at will. Memory changes over time. That’s right. It changes over…what was I saying? This is probably useful when it comes to remembering that time you took that one not-so-hot person home with you. But if you’re at work trying to remember something from last week, this is very inconvenient.
Memory mistakes have a common origin: “they are all artifacts of the techniques our minds employ to fill in the inevitable gaps. Those techniques include relying on our expectations and, more generally, on our belief systems and our prior knowledge. As a result, when our expectations, beliefs, and prior knowledge are at odds with the actual events, our brains can be fooled.”
This is very important. Your memory, even what you see, is constructed based on your expectations, and your beliefs. Is this even science? Indeed it is.
Remember this video?
I already forgot what I was writing about.