« on: June 01, 2014, 01:08:25 PM »
My comments are based on my (imperfect) memory of science podcasts and other science journalism I've encountered in the last few years. If you have contradictory info I'd love to see a reference.Regarding eye-witness accounts...the reason they are unreliable is people are unobservant. There are some individuals who are exceptionally observant, and can recall a scene, such as a crime, in extensive detail.
My understanding is that new research has shown this to be wrong. There are a few "savant" types who have very precise/correct memory function, but for "neurotypical" (i.e. "normal") people, this is not so.
I'm not saying everyone can be a savant. I'm saying everyone can learn how to WORK their memory to improve it. I did it...I used to have the same old poor memory that everyone had, I forgot stuff all the time, couldn't remember accurately. By thinking about, exercising, and processing sensory input more actively, I can intentionally bring up other memories that I want associated to the new ones I'm creating. Purposely recalling memories in certain ways and reviewing after creating them has helped me strengthen those memories, improving my ability to accurately recall the original event, be it sight, sound, smell, touch, taste or all of the above.
Whatever current research shows, memory is NOT simply some passive process we have absolutely no control over. It's also an active process that we CAN control, and we can improve our memory if we choose to...either only of specific events of importance, or we can train ourselves to process input in a certain way such that most input is more adequately remembered and strongly associated.
QuoteI believe the brain only fills in information if it isn't readily accessible. I do believe that for the most part, when we see something, the entirety of what we see is recorded.
Again, my understanding is that recent research shows that the adage "seeing is believing" has it backwards: it should be "believing is seeing." The brain does not record raw image info at all, but constructs a reality that incorporates visual data with existing beliefs and expectations. It's that highly-processed "reality" that's recorded. As an example, back in 2004 there was that video tape of a purported Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Subsequent analysis showed that it was almost certainly the rather common pileated woodpecker. The "eyewitnesses," however, recall seeing detail that would clearly distinguish it as an IBW. Even if it was a pileated, those witness may truthfully and genuinely believe they saw those distinguishing characteristics.
I don't think any of that contradicts the notion that our brains store much or most of everything that goes into them. I don't deny that our beliefs and desires can color HOW we remember...as they could control what we recall. Remember, memory is often about association. If the guy watching the woodpecker was vividly remembering an IBW at the time (would have been an amazing find, for sure! I really hope they aren't extinct, but... ), that wouldn't necessarily change the new memories being created, but it could overpower the new memories with the associations to old memories of IBW. Upon recall...you aren't just recalling the new memories, but things associated with it as well. What you finally "remember" could certainly be colored by your desired, causing someone to misremember. Good memory is not necessarily good recall, and it certainly doesn't overpower an individual's desires for something to be true. All that gets into a level of complexity about our our brains work that goes well beyond any courses on the subject I've ever taken.
BTW, I am not talking about savants who have perfect memory. Eidetic memories or whatever you want to call them, that's a different thing than what I'm talking about. Eidetic memories are automatic, it's more how those individuals brains work, maybe a higher and more cohesive level of processing than normal individuals. That doesn't change the fact that you CAN actively work with your memory to improve it, considerably. I'm not as good at it these days as I used to...severe chronic insomnia have stolen a lot of abilities like that from me, but when I was younger, I used to have an exceptional memory. I remembered small details about everything because I was always working and reviewing the information going in. Before I took that class, my memory was pretty average, after and still largely since, it's been better than average to truly excellent.
That has to do with memory creation itself, though...it doesn't mean my memories can't be colored by prior experiences for desires. I think it lessens the chance of improper recall, but it's still possible to overpower a new memory with associations to old ones, and over time, what is recalled may not be 100% accurate (again, not talking about eidetic memories here, still just normal memory.) There have been cases of obsessive-compulsive individuals having particularly exceptional memory, on the level of supposed eidetics and in some respects better. For the very very rare individual, memories become their obsession, and because it's an obsession, every memory is fully explored, strengthened and associated to a degree well beyond normal. Recall is very fast, and the details can be very vivid. It isn't just image-based either, all sensory input can be remembered this way (sounds, smells, etc.) With such strong associations and synaptic cleft strengthening, such an individuals memories are effectively permanent as well. The difference would be the obsessive-compulsive chooses what memories to obsesse over...so their recall isn't necessarily as complete as an eidetic (who's memory for imagery is more automatic.)