Editing Our Memories
All of us “edit” and correct our memories—but this is a skill we have to learn, according to researchers at the University of Arkansas:
“Although it is known that children are more susceptible to false memories than adults, why remains a question. Researchers led by James Lampinen of the University of Arkansas have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to learn when and how children develop the memory-editing skills needed to detect false memories and to suggest methods of learning such skills.
‘Relatively little is known about the development of different kinds of memory-editing strategies in children, the contexts in which these strategies are used, and whether these strategies can be learned,’ the researchers wrote. Their research ‘investigates the use and development of basic false memory editing mechanisms in children.’
The research could lead to improved methods for interviewing children as well as educational approaches to help children learn strategies for distinguishing false memories. The researchers plan to hold annual ‘learning about learning’ workshops with school districts. In addition to sharing the results of the research, such workshops will provide opportunities for educators to share experiences in helping children learn to avoid false memories.
‘There are two lines of research that led into this project,’ Lampinen said. ‘How are false memories developed? And how do adults adjust or edit their memories to avoid false memories?’
In one approach, known as the distinctiveness strategy, adults use expectations about how vivid and distinctive a particular sort of memory should be. Alternately, using the logical inconsistency strategy, adults employ the knowledge that memory of one event can imply that another event did not occur. Such memory-editing strategies are less well developed in children than in adults.” Read more here.
It’s fascinating to me that on some level, adults are aware that their memories may be unreliable, and so they engage in these editing strategies to bring them into line with reality. Educating children about how memory works sounds like a great addition to their general understanding of how people learn.