Memory loss is that moment when you forget. It may seem normal, maybe every once in awhile, but if we sense that it is becoming quite excessive, we may start to worry. Alzheimer’s perhaps? Nah! It may just be one of seven reasons below – an allusion to the 7 deadly sins by American psychologist and Psychology professor at Harvard University, Daniel Schacter.
DANIEL SCHACTER’S SEVEN MEMORY SINS
Over time, we lose some information, especially if we do not use that often. This is called transience and neuroscientists believe this is what the brain does in order to clear out our memory storage. When unimportant things are purged, it will give space for the new things that may be more useful to remember.
Absentmindedness is failure to recall only because proper attention was not given. When inattentive, any information perceived is not securely encoded into the brain. Things, like leaving your cellphone, returning a call, taking your supplement or unplugging that flat iron (Whoops!), may be forgotten when you are in a rush or mindful of other things.
That so-called tip-of-the-tongue experience – when we know it but we just could not say it – is what Schacter calls blocking. This temporary inability to remember could be due to a similar memory that obstructs us from recalling the exact one… Question – How many Marys or Johns have you met in your entire life?
3 KINDS OF MEMORY DISTORTION: MISATTRIBUTION, SUGGESTIBILITY AND BIAS
Misattribution, one of three kinds of memory distortion, is remembering an event accurately but attributing it to the wrong source. This happens when the retrieved information are not completely accurate. For example, you may say, “I heard it from Karen,” when you really got it from the news. Incorrect attribution is also common with older people and those who have a hard time concentrating.
Another kind of inaccurate recall is suggestibility, in which something suggested is incorporated into one’s memory and, as a result, that idea becomes distorted. The brain is so vulnerable that suggestions confuse the mind into thinking such a memory is real… Imagine those people with distorted memory recall serving as murder witnesses who sent the innocent wrongly to jail. Sad.
Bias, also a form of memory distortion, refers to the fact that our memory is affected by our perceptions, beliefs and experiences. Memory is even bias to our current mood such that recall is influenced by it.
Intrusive memories or persistent flashbacks that are emotionally or psychologically disturbing is called persistence. Examples are current worries, fears, negative feelings and traumatic experiences. People who are depressed or suffer post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD are prone to this type of memory problem.
So, there you have it! If you think you are having that so-called senior moment, think again. It could simply be just any one of Daniel’s seven.
(1) [The Brainwaves Video Anthology]. (2016, Dec 16). Daniel Schacter – The Seven Sins of Memory [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7QUPKmeHmA.
(2) Forgetfulness — 7 types of normal memory problems. Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved April 26, 2020 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/forgetfulness-7-types-of-normal-memory-problems.