I’ve recently been playing Grim Fandango, a remastered release of a classic PC game from the 90’s. I find myself confused how I first have no recollection about what’s going to happen next, until a new screen loads. Broken parts of stories and and images instantly flood my mind from over 15 years ago.
What’s troubling, and interesting, is that some of those memories are blatantly false and inaccurate.
false memories #
This particular game consists mainly of dialogue, problems and solutions. The more difficult (and sometimes ridiculous) solutions are usually achieved by interacting with the environment and different items. I remember things totally wrong, and actually remember seeing wrong items interacting in incorrect places and events happening in different order.
I’m not sure if I’m making these incorrect memories up as I go. Maybe I imagined these possible solutions 15 years ago, and that imagined solution has somehow substituted the actual one. Perhaps I’m merely missing some parts of the game’s events and story, and fill them with whatever is available. There’s a bunch of theories dreamed up by psychologists and whoever, that try to explain why these false memories happen.
fabricating memories #
Having weird experiences with an old game is of course harmless, but it appears these things happen often. There’s likely a bunch of biological and environmental issues causing them, but no one knows for certain how to best study, and let alone avoid them.
Missing certain information can cause the mind to fill up those empty slots by generating fitting data. What I find more interesting and serious, is the absence of crucial information that is the proof of something’s trueness or falseness. This could be like forgetting the fact that something didn’t actually happen, that it’s someone else’s experience, or perhaps just a dream.
Sometimes memories are remembered correctly, but there is no clue about any timeline for it. Forcefully and incorrectly placing a true event among unrelated ones will create associations between them, and the associations end up being false. Anything based on those associations are then dubious.
When confabulated memories are repeated enough, they become truths in one’s mind. Basing future memories and behaviour on the false ones has potential for a snowball effect where everything is based on a lie or exaggeration. I’d say the world is full of myths born this way.
Feedback and assurance form others induce social pressure on deciding on a particular fact. Positive feedback on false memories can steer the mind towards falsehoods. This way, thoughts and ideas can be injected into people, and they can be manipulated.
Biological damage to the brain will force it to adjust by recreating neural pathways or connections (or something sciency like it). Information might get lost, with the added possibility of something connecting wrong. No one knows for a fact.
The last moments of an event have larger emphasis than the whole, whether those moments are good or bad. A totally miserable event with a positive end might later seem better than a generally positive event with a negative ending. This isn’t so much about creating non-existing memories, but skewing existing ones, and creating a narrative that is not based on the experience as a whole.
We cannot exist in constant self-doubt about our memories, but perhaps should be open to the fact that we’re remembering something wrong. The possible ways our memories can fail us are many, and I suppose it depends on our relationships if we can trust others’ memories better. Some kind of fact based recordings can help with certain issues, but so far they don’t seem to be able to record thoughts and feelings. And I suppose sometimes these things can be good for us, and perhaps we should just forget about the details when they’re not that essential.
- a vision of a world where every experience is recorded: Black Mirror, s1 e3