Studies show that our memory bank works in mysterious ways. Memories can apparently be repressed despite the sincerest of intentions.
Memories depend on the contextual matrix. This goes for positive memories as well as negative ones. The surrounding atmosphere during the formation of the memory counts for a lot.
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At least it is crucial in more ways than we thought. Take Bruce Springsteen’s famous song “Born to Run”. It may have a positive memory attached with it such as your first sweetheart who was in the car when it was playing sometime in the past.
Or it could have left a bitter taste in your mouth if you were given a speeding ticket by a cop since you were listening to the song and moving very fast on the highway.
Yet the evidence is in that people often forget their memories whether they are good or bad depending on the framework through which they view them. This can have many applications in the future.
We can increase our happy memories through this method. Also we can forget our bitter memories using this mental trickery. Finally, it could serve as an educational tool as well. Also PTSD could become a thing of the past thanks to this scheme.
Since the times of the Ancient Greeks, mankind has known this much that we use our five senses to retrieve our good or bad memories. How to intentionally forget past experiences and thus ease our cognitive load is the question that must be answered if we are to diminish our suffering.
MRI scans were taken of patients who remembered certain memories all the while reciting a list of words. Also scenic pictures were shown to the patients while they recited a list of words.
The scientists thought the picture-based recitation would evoke the memories in a biased manner. After the patients were told to forget certain memories, the MRI scans of their brains showed that they had flushed out these memories.
However, when the patients were told to remember the list rather than forgetting it, such a flushing didn’t take place. Thus forgetting is voluntary and not necessarily an unconscious process as was thought of before.
This shows that forgetting can be just as important as remembering and that not all memories are worth repeating in the mind over and over again. Once again, context is king in the case of memory operations in the human brain.
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The study was published in thr journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.