Was his jacket blue or green? You saw someone a few minutes ago, but you still don’t remember. Don’t panic: you’re not the only one, according to scientific research.
The fact that some distortions occasionally occur in our long-term memory has been known since the 1930s. Now scientists at the University of Amsterdam have come up with a surprising new insight: Memories in our brain appear distorted after just two seconds.
A surprising search result
Dutch neuroscientist Marty Otten and his colleagues are conducting research into our memory and the storage of memories. This research yielded surprising results, and then it was done recently published in scientific journals Plus one.
The results of the study are based, among other things, on an experiment with about 400 test subjects. They were always shown different letters or symbols. They were then asked the simple question of what they saw. What does it look like? Half of the people who were sure of their case, and of what they had just seen, were wrong.
Sensory illusion or memory illusion
There are two ways your brain can store things incorrectly. Or the perception is incorrect, so that your brain also stores something incorrect: a sensory illusion. Or you register something correctly, but it is immediately stored incorrectly in the brain: this is the illusion of memory.
In this study, research candidates were sometimes asked directly what they noticed, but sometimes this question was “only” asked two seconds later. What did you turn? If the question is asked after 2 seconds, it is most likely to be answered incorrectly. In these two seconds, the memory is already distorted in the brain.
In this study, participants were shown letters or symbols the correct way, or vice versa. Why our brain actually stores the memory incorrectly after such a short time, according to scientists, probably has something to do with expectations. Since you may have seen the letter K several times in your life in the usual way, your brain will reshape the letter K. Then you remember the perfectly normal letter K, while just before that you noticed something else.
Don’t worry, you probably won’t incorrectly save entire conversations right away. When events or conversations happen in a recognizable context, you are less likely to remember them in a completely different way.
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poor memory? After only two seconds, your brain fails you