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Question: How do we produce false memories?

Ottavio Arancio:  It happens in most likely you were storing things in the brain and you are confusing from maybe your fantasy with the reality and… or, one possibility.  The other possibility, like you had the wrong perception of what you saw, so you’re storing this in a way because you are convinced that it’s that way, but it was not that way.  Let’s say I make two good examples.  I mean you’re convinced that maybe you were not…  did not pay that much attention and you’re convinced that person was dressed in red instead it was pink or a color close to red then you store the thing that way.  Obviously with time the memory will become more faraway, certain aspects could disappear and we could fill them with other aspects just to fill the gap, so we make up for the memory and we build up the memory in the time of recalling the memory we are recalling stuff that occurred in other circumstances because when it’s a memory it’s not… Our brain is not a recorder like passive recorder. It’s more active processes, so being an active process there could be ways of you know changing it because actively we can change it.  That’s something which is important.  It’s not our brain is like a tape recorder or a TV or a VCR.  I mean it’s not.  It’s more active than that and there are several steps in the process of memory and recalling a memory which there are many, many steps, several steps and each one of them as a memory could be labile and could be you know changed into something else, substituted by something else.

Question: Can you explain this process?

Ottavio Arancio:  Yeah.  You have to look at memory as a process in which there are several steps which they apply some interference from.  It’s not the right word, processing of our brain of this information and this is just purely active and it’s just changed.  It’s like when you change something from analogue to digital just to make one of those things, the video from the computer and in the process of changing from analogue to digital you can change something and it would not be the same you know.  What if you change a chip or something and you change the yellow into a green, so whatever was yellow will be green and… or A, when I say an A you can even artificially change into a B if want because if you tell the computer to change all the A into a B then everything will be a B or sometimes during this process some A will change into a B then it will change.  There is some activity, something that is there occurring and it changes.

More from the Big Idea for Sunday, June 27 2010


Memories Are Really Fantasies

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