You can totally hack into other people’s heads. It sounds dastardly, right? But you can tweak other people’s memories.
On Mind Hacks, Heather Fishel cites the work of Dr. Jon Lieff and writes:
“Once an event occurs and time moves on, it becomes a part of your memory. Each time you recall that event and its details—smells, sounds, details, and so on—you’re not, in fact, remembering the original moment. Instead, you’re recalling the last time you remembered that memory.”
But it’s more than that. We tweak those memories to make better stories:
“Wired writer Jonah Lehrer points out, human nature makes us love stories, and the more exciting and engaging a story is, the more we’ll want to share it. As a result, when we recount our memories both internally and to others, we ignore any facts that don’t suit the plot. Our minds allow us to toss aside any information that we dislike, replacing truth with pure fiction. Why? We simply want to fit in, and unless we change what we remember, our stories will suck.”
We will tweak our own memories so we don’t look dumb, so we fit in, so we tell a better story, and we usually don’t even realize that we’re doing it. And sometimes we have totally false memories.
What is a false memory?
According to VeryWellMind, false memories
“are misremembered, distorted, or fabricated recollections of past events. Such memories can be trivial, such as mistakenly remembering where you put your car keys, but they can also be much more serious.”
The big time consequences of false memories are the stuff of novels and tv shows: false convictions, financial loss, lawsuits, children dying in heated, locked cars.
But it is also a smaller scale thing. You are sure you left your cell phone on the desk. It is not on the desk. It is on the table. You have to wonder how many poltergeist cases are rooted in false memories, right? You think you shut the closet door, but the closet door is open. You are positive you locked the door. The door is unlocked.
You think you saw Bigfoot when you were six, but did you really, Carrie?
I’m the first to admit that I’m no longer sure.
Verywellmind has three strategies culled from researchers to help deal with false memories, which we are quoting here.
Use imagery: Researchers have found that when people use imagery to create a visual representation of information, their memory for that information is better and less susceptible to false memories.10
Search your memory: Experts also suggest that selectively searching memory for mistakes and falsehoods can sometimes be helpful.11
Evaluate and corroborate memories: If you find a memory that you aren’t sure about, evaluating it based on your expectations and then collaborating it using other people’s recollections or other historical data can help verify or disprove it.11
But what’s really wild is that psychiatrists like Elizabeth Loftus have found that there’s a misinformation effect with memories. So, if you witness or experience an event and then talk about it, are questioned about it in a leading way, view tweets or news stories, or are exposed to the wrong information repeatedly? It can change your memory of that same event.
Novelists can use this to help develop plots for novels. Mystery writers do it all the time making a detective call out the inconsistency in a witnesses’ testimony, and sometimes in real life and novels people confess to a crime because of a false memory, believing they have committed a crime even though they haven’t.
But people can do this to each other too, as Fishel writes:
“Try lying to them in a different way: tell them they didn’t complete a task that they, in fact, did. For example, if your roommate can’t seem to understand that doors need to be locked when leaving home, point out the unlocked door every single time you leave. Do this repeatedly over time, and your roommate will start double-checking and questioning himself every time he leaves home. “Did I lock the door? Did I completely forget?”
What are the ethics here? Some people believe that this can be a force for good. But is controlling another person ever a force for good? It’s like gaslighting but tweaked, right? So, use this knowledge wisely, friends.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Only manipulate your humans for good.
LINKS WE REFERENCE
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.
Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.
AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!
We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook. But she also has extra cool content focused on writing tips here.
Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!