Remembering and Forgetting

I would like to tell you about something that I noticed at the end of the discussions I’ve been in recently. Let’s go through a scenario like this.

Two people with mutual acquaintances argue and the argument gets stronger, then they stop talking. In this case, the first question he will ask in common acquaintances is, definitely, “why?” will be. People who listen to the event from both sides often encounter two different stories.

What happened is certain, what has been experienced is certain, the sentences spoken are certain, so why is the story different?


Frankly, I wanted to do a research on this. Because I have encountered this kind of situation a lot. At first I thought it might be intentional. However, I don’t think it would be right to expect the other party to do it every time, unless I do it intentionally.

The reason has all to do with memories. How our mind stores and recalls these memories…


Our memories are who we are. It helps to form identity awareness. Our memories are the only way we can perceive that we can experience the timeline we call the past, present, and future. Of course, the actions we take automatically during the day are not included in the essence of such a general sentence. Losing our non-automatic memories can be said to be equivalent to giving up on life and identity. Like Londoner musician Clive Wearing. Clive is a very good pianist who suffers from a mental illness that causes him to forget his memories. He starts to reset every day except his habits. When he sees his wife during the day, he forgets the next day that he was happy to hug her and chat with her and behaves as if he were living this scenario for the first time. He experiences everything that he does routinely, such as playing the piano, brushing his teeth, and everything but his wife’s name, he live for the first time every day.


Based on the Clive story, when our memories are so important, why do we forget them? Or to put it differently, why do our memories that we know exist or that we think we store mislead us?

This is due to our long-term memory. If the memory we want to remember is encoded into long-term memory, the memory must go through a process to recall it. This may vary depending on how it is encoded in the coding steps. So when we witness a crime, what color the criminal wears can be confused with a banana you see at the grocery store on the same day. Although the criminal is wearing green, the banana and the criminal’s t-shirt, which meet each other on the coding path, may remind us of the yellow color.

Of course, seeing only bananas does not explain the situation. We can manipulate the event we are witnessing with small clues such as memories that evoke or come to mind while witnessing the event.

The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali Museum of Modern Art New York City

How can we recall the right memory?

It is unlikely that we can literally call the right memory. Because most of the memories we remember are false memories. It makes the scenario that these memories make us feel as if it were real. The stronger the feelings, the stronger the scenario. Therefore, when distant memories are recalled, the good ones are usually recalled. This is why you always want to go back to the past. Nostalgia is always attractive because the past is often well remembered.

However, there are very few people who remember every detail of their memories in a biographical sense. Those people do not want to go back to the past. Because the fact that they remember all the good and bad memories does not make the past attractive.


In this case, our memories are our identities, but only to the extent that they make us feel, or we do not need to remember them to form an identity. What really matters is the reactions we give while living that moment.

If we go back to the beginning, the moment we call and tell at the end of any discussion is meaningless if we don’t have a biographical memory. Because everyone’s memory of the event will be wrong.

As it is said in Memento, one of the best films ever made about the psychology of memories:

“Memory can change the shape of a room; can change the color of a car. Memories can be distorted. They just interpretation, not a record, and memories are irrelevant if you have the facts.”

In other words, as Elizabeth Loftus put it in one of her TED talks:

“Memories are like a Wikipedia page and can be modified by you or someone else.”

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