The 4 types of memory failures: this is how memories betray us

As the reader may recall from what was seen in the article “What Are False Memories and Why Do We Suffer Them?” there is the possibility of partially remembering an event, conversation or situation, not remembering it or remembering it without having experienced it.

Going deeper into this, there are many types of mistakes they can make and, it is important to share this information as these mistakes have broken friendships, ignored arguments, created big conflicts and other issues that no one else does. will undoubtedly recognize by looking back.

    Memory failures

    Below we will look at several phenomena that make our memory less reliable than it appears.


    One of the factors that conditions our memory is stress, Understand that, beyond an overload of work or a worry, as an activation of the level of alert that can be given by situations as innumerable as different in which we find ourselves involved on a daily basis.

    Stress generates corticosteroid discharge by excitation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. (Gómez-González, 2002) that it can improve or worsen memory, Depending on the treatment phase influenced by the stress hormones and the nature or valence (positive or negative) of the coded information.

    Thus, many studies have shown when stress levels are very high (eg: lively discussion with family or between partners: a debate on a very controversial subject on social networks, etc.) the emotional memory is preserved, or even s’. improves, while the memory of non-emotional information is affected.

    What relevance does it have? In a stressful situation like those discussed in the previous paragraph, it is very likely that not only will logic be put aside, but due to this increased emotional activation, attention (and therefore memory) will be focused. discussion, debate or observed fact who aroused the most negative feelings.

    This not only leads to an often irrational (understood as lacking in well-structured logic) and premature resolution, but also contributes to forming negative stereotypes about others, forgetting aspects such as the consistency of their argument despite their lack of respect, the logic of an idea despite spelling mistakes, the communicator’s intention despite his mistake in expressing it, etc. So, by accessing this memory later, these details are practically inaccessible.

    • Related article: “Types of memory: How does the human brain store memories?”

    More experiences with this, a more reliable opinion?

    We often think that having experienced a situation more often or having had a discussion more often on a particular subject or with a particular person makes us more “aware” or gives more confidence to our opinion. However, is this true?

    Behavioral science studies have shown that people who have experienced similar situations on multiple occasions (eg, Event, discussion) with an emotional load, they tend to be less reliable than witnesses to events that have happened only once, Giving worse results in terms of accuracy, integrity and consistency of the narrative (Smeets, Candel & Merckelbach, 2004).

    So why does he feel so much safer?

    The phenomenon of the decline of confirmation

    In psychology there is a thorough study and confirmation bias experiments. This bias is also known as selective information gathering. It is seen as an effect of information processing which leads people to seek to confirm their hypotheses, to confirm their expectations, to reaffirm their stereotypes, even to justify their decisions or their lifestyles. The stereotype should be understood as a thought pattern, without necessarily being negative (eg the world is a beautiful place).

    This confirmatory search is either pre-conscious or unconscious (although you can intentionally attempt to avoid it if this effect is known) and occurs regardless of the veracity or falsity of the information collected.

    In turn, this bias allows the “repetition” of information what was already considered true, Make it more stable in its own pattern of knowledge of the world, of others or of oneself. Information which does not seek to be falsified and which is kept as true as when it was previously processed.

    Several explanations have been offered for the emergence of confirmation bias which is shared by default (although I insist, it can be modulated or overcome) every human being. These explanations revolve around different factors, one of which is the so-called “cognitive economy” whereby the brain tends to seek balance and patterns to use minimal energy when solving a problem or problem. a situation, a problem which also partly explains the formation of stereotypes and knowledge patterns.

    The role of emotions in memories

    Other explanations have focused more on emotional factors. It is not difficult to think that it is (usually) better to be right than to be wrong, thus, confirmation bias would avoid the cost or damage caused by the error and, instead of investigating the fact, argument or event in a neutral way. the scientist the parts that correspond to the hypothesis are selected, Are often magnified and the rest is looked down upon or diminished.

    A good example of this can be found in deductive reasoning books or in psychology thought textbooks. Where different types of errors are exposed which serve both to discredit arguments, to lean towards theirs and to protect against unwanted change or damage to self-esteem.

    The role of errors

    Ad hominem error: it consists in taking for granted the falsity of a statement by taking as argument the one who made it. Try to discredit the person defending this idea report a negative characteristic or action of the person, Regardless of the idea. It should be noted that this is one of the most widely used mistakes today in the debates that are warmly held by social media on topical issues.

    Tu quoque error: It consists in rejecting an argument or in considering it as false, by alleging the inconsistency of the one who proposes it. (Ex: How can you talk about corruption if when you were in charge there were also cases?). We know that an idea can actually be good or bad, whether or not the forwarder is lead by example or not, but if the idea is not liked, this mistake is often used to avoid it.

    Thus, confirmation bias distorts and selects the information installed in our diagrams. These schemas, alluded to throughout the article, in cognitive science are understood as thought patterns, structured sets of ideas, a structure of representation of the world, a structure of specific knowledge, mental frameworks. social knowledge, etc.

    It is not the purpose of this article to describe in detail, it will suffice to comment that they are primarily responsible for our expectations.

      Cognitive patterns

      Are we not talking from memory? Yes, and we continue to do so. As a compilation, the emotional situation distorts attention and memory, the confirmation bias selects parts of the information that benefit its own ideas, and these ideas are installed again in our memory in the form of diagrams.

      These diagrams contain stable and variable parts, the more the parts are repeated (confirmed), the more stable they are and, moreover, they are the cause of our expectations, being our framework of knowledge.

      So, with the point of view in this article where it has been stated that memory and imagination and the projection of oneself and others into the future (expectations) share a neural network, it is clear that if these factors are not taken into account, they refer to creating a loop that hardly responds to any logic other than personal.

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