In our memory, perceptions are filtered through our own personal experiences, beliefs, knowledge, and even our moods. These prejudices influence our perceptions and experiences. When memory is retrieved, these biases can affect what information we retrieve.
On her blog for Ness Labs, Anne-Le Cunff lists a few different types of memory distortions that we may experience:
- Rosy Retrospective Bias: We tend to remember that the past was better than it really was, which results in the past being disproportionately more positive than we judge the present.
- Consistency bias: We mistakenly remember our previous attitudes and behaviors that are similar to our current attitudes and behaviors, and therefore feel like we are acting in accordance with our general self-image.
- Mood-congruent memory distortion: We better remember memories that match our current mood. For example, feeling relaxed can bring back relaxing memories. Feeling stressed out can bring back stressful memories.
- Retrospect bias: We view past events as predictable – also known as “know-it-all bias”.
- Self-centered Bias: We remember the past as better than selfishly, such as our exam grades being better than they really were.
- Availability bias: Memories that easily come to mind are more representative than they actually are. Because of this, people tend to overestimate the likelihood of shark attacks or the number of lottery winners.
- Timeliness effect: We remember best the information last presented. For example, at a trial, the most recent evidence presented may be the clearest in a jury’s mind.
- Choice supportive tendency: We remember that selected options were better than rejected options.
- Fading affects bias: our emotions associated with unpleasant memories fade faster than our emotions associated with pleasant memories.
- Confirmatory Bias: Our tendency to seek and interpret memories in a way that confirms our previous hypotheses or personal beliefs.
Researchers have found good news in the relationship between memory disorders and aging adults.
In the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the American Psychological Association reported that the impairment of memory that encourages positive image retrieval increases in successively older age groups. Older adults tend to regulate their emotions more effectively by maintaining positive feelings and lowering negative feelings.
We all have attitudes and preconceptions that affect our memories. However, research is minimal on the brain mechanisms behind memory impairments, or whether they become more common as we age.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or related conditions can be directed to Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, owner of Dana Territo Consulting, LLC at email@example.com.