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Why Going To School In Your Underwear Wasn’t Just A Nightmare: False Memories

The Limbic System *Dramatic Lighting*

Yasmine Ghalayini
October 28, 2019

False memories: everyone has them, but what are they?

False memories are a psychological phenomenon where your brain only captures bits and pieces of experiences that actually happened. Every time you look back at a memory, your brain filters information into the gaps in the memory that have accumulated over time; bits and pieces of information that are missing in the memory are simulated.

Often, these pieces of information reflect the reality of the person at the specific time they are recalling that memory, changing the way someone experiences it depending on the time that they are remembering it. Over multiple years after having the experience, the gaps in said memory get bigger and bigger, thus causing the brain to filter in more and more memories. This results in memories that are partially false, and eventually, almost completely made up.

Many theories have been made for the reason that this happens, one of them involving the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for memories). The hippocampus stores important long term memories and information. If a memory is not often accessed, the hippocampus deems it unnecessary. Thus, in order to make room for newer memories, it lets go of unimportant details. When the brain accesses the memory, it filters information into the memory gaps created by the hippocampus and allows the person to remember the experience, albeit differently. As time passes, the hippocampus lets go of more and more unnecessary details, thus causing partially false, or in time, almost completely false memories.

Now, you should have a good explanation of why you have these memories about something that are so different from the way that the thing actually happened.

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