When storing and recalling memories it is well known that we don’t remember every minute detail of a situation, instead some of the key attributes of the and then recall will rebuild the situation and fill in the gaps with “intuition” and “inferred knowledge”.
For example, I remember sitting down to breakfast this morning and eating cereal.
I remember I had Kellogg’s Shreddies and sat at the kitchen table facing my fiancé, Amy.
This is the memory, but there is a lot else that comes back when I think about that situation, such as:
- I know Amy was there because I remember her asking me to set up breakfast.
- I only ever “set up breakfast” when Amy is there.
- I must have had milk as I always have milk on my shreddies
- Therefore I must have gone to the fridge to get it – added to the “story” of the original memory and “comes to light” as I develop the story of the situation of me eating my breakfast.
- I was in the new kitchen (I ate breakfast this morning in this memory and I know it’s 2013 and the new kitchen was fitted in 2012), so lots of separate memories of being in the kitchen allow me to form a complete view of what the kitchen looks like. This won’t be “accurate”, but the non-moving items will be in place.
- I know the coffee machine is in it’s place – 100% probability as it’s never been anywhere else
- I know the TV is in the corner
- and probably on as it is normally on when I eat breakfast – 80% accurate
- I was facing Amy, so it must have been a Saturday or Sunday as we only eat breakfast together at the weekend
- It was probably showing Saturday Kitchen as that is normally on at the time I eat breakfast on a saturday
- I don’t have any tea towels in the “image” of the kitchen as they could be anywhere (too low probability so eliminated from the recall image)
- There is a 50-50 chance there were flowers on the table
- I “may” include flowers in the memory if it makes the memory happier (relationship to the emotion engine)
- If I am in a sad mood when recalling the situation then I may “exclude” the flowers to make the memory more applicable to my current negative emotional state
- If I am in a happy mood when recalling the situation then I may “include” the flowers to make the memory more applicable to my current positive emotional state
- This suggests / supports memories are not “reliable” evidence and can be affected by external factors such as current emotional state.
- Think of a solicitor asking a witness “Just how slow was the car travelling?” as opposed to “Just how fast was the car speeding towards you at?” It is proven that these different questions of the same scene will affect the answer quite considerably.
- I remember it is the brown kitchen table that was in front of me
- This wasn’t stored with my original memory of eating shreddies, but inferred from the following previous memories
- There has been a white table in the kitchen
- There has been a brown table in the kitchen
- The white table was put in the kitchen in 2010
- The brown table was put in the kitchen in 2012
- I ate my breakfast in 2013, therefore it must have been the brown table in the kitchen when I ate my breakfast
- This shows that being able too “time-box” situations is important to select related situations on a “Temporal” basis
The longer ago the breakfast memory was the more it “fades” (probability of each supporting piece added drops).. for example if I think back to a breakfast a few years ago, I can’t quite remember if it was in 2011 or 2012 so it may have been the new or old kitchen, so this is a “faded” (low probability) memory and only the very important attributes are clear and trusted (the fact I ate breakfast facing Amy).
- Whether is is the new or old kitchen is more faded as I can’t quite remember the year
- I know it was the weekend as I was facing Amy, this is still clear
- Saturday morning kitchen was on TV as that is nearly always (80% probability) on the TV when I eat breakfast facing Amy