Human memory capacity is pretty amazing, but don't fall into the trap of thinking you can rely on it all the time. It turns out that our brains can play tricks on us, and there are lots of reasons why you can't trust your own memory. From our inability to lodge colors into the old memory bank to our tendency to remember positive things and forget negative ones, we have memories that are more like rose-tinted biopics than gritty documentaries. In fact, thousands of people who don't even know each other are capable of having the exact same false memory of something.
Read on for reasons why you should never trust your own memory. And write them down so you don't forget.
Thousands Of People Can Misremember The Same Thing
Remember that '90s movie Shazaam starring Sinbad? Lots of people do, but it never actually happened. It's an example of the Mandela Effect, the phenomenon in which thousands of unrelated people misremember the same event. The name was coined by Fiona Bloome after Nelson Mandela's death in 2013 because people all over the world had a vivid memory of him dying in the 1980s.
Other examples of the Mandela Effect include the children's book series The Berenstain Bears being remembered as The Berenstein Bears and The Flintstones being misspelled as The Flinstones.
If You Can Google It, You Won't Remember It
Now that you can Google pretty much anything at any time - receiving the exact information you want right when you want it with very little effort - your brain has the tendency to forget the things you've learned. If your brain perceives that it can find the information elsewhere, it just won't bother to retain the facts. This phenomenon is called the Google Effect.
Forgotten Memories Can Feel New And Original
A phenomenon known as cryptomnesia can make accidental plagiarists of us all. Sometimes, we read or hear something and store it in our brains, only to remember it later as a completely original idea. These ideas can lay dormant in our minds for months or years and resurface without us realizing it, which is part of the reason why movies, TV shows, and books can (legitimately) be accidentally plagiarized.
You Can't Judge The Accuracy Of Your Own Memory
Every time you remember something, your memory is a little less accurate than the time before. Think of it as a game of telephone where you keep repeating a memory to yourself over and over again. Each time you repeat it, certain details become fuzzier. But you have no reason to think your memory is less than perfect and probably won't realize you're wrong until you're confronted with evidence. This is why eyewitness testimony in criminal cases is not always reliable.