Friday, 3 February 2012

Remembering is "re-remembering"

"Memory is endlessly creative, and at one level it functions just as imagination does... endlessly rewriting the self." (Fernyhough, 2012)
Memories are constructed when needed "according to the demands of the present" claims Fernyhough (2010). And as a result they are "soberingly fragile" (Fernyhough, 2010). He argues that memories are "nifty multimedia collages of how things were" which are mental reconstructions and are "shaped by how things are now" (Fernyhough, 2012). 
"If the experimental conditions are set up correctly, it turns out to be rather simple to give people memories for events that never actually happened. These recollections can often be very vivid... [Kim Wade at the University of Warwick] colluded with the parents of her student participants to get photos from the undergraduates' childhoods, and to ascertain whether certain events, such as a ride in a hot-air balloon, had ever happened. She then doctored some of the images to show the participant's childhood face in one of these never-experienced contexts, such as the basket of a hot-air balloon in flight. Two weeks after they were shown the pictures, about half of the participants 'remembered' the childhood balloon ride, producing some strikingly vivid descriptions, and many showed surprise when they heard that the event had never occurred. In the realms of memory, the fact that it is vivid doesn't guarantee that it really happened." (Fernyhough, 2012)
"Remembering is always re-remembering" (Fernyhough, 2012) and it's the the assembly of memory and the resulting editing process that may distort how things actually were. He also notes that "contamination by visual images, such as photographs and video" may alter our memories and "when we look back into the past, we are always doing so through a prism of intervening selves".

Memories are "curiously susceptible to distortion, and often not nearly as reliable as we would like", however, knowing uncertainties in remembering makes memory into a kind of storytelling which "contain a rather wonderful kind of truth" (Fernyhough, 2010).

Fernyhough, Charles (2012) The story of the self. [Online] [03/02/2012] 
Fernyhough, Charles (2010) Ideas for modern living: memory. [Online] [03/02/2012]