False memories 2

[Added April 2001]
The presidential optical illusion will demonstrate other features of our brain that
lead to false memories. When we look at the world around us we try immediately
to understand what we see by putting it in a well known category and then we
forget about it. So in this case almost always we “understand” that we are
looking at Clinton and Gore and we don’t check the face of Gore. So in future
we will remember that we have seen without any doubt Clinton and Gore! In fact
we haven’t checked that Gore was really Gore and not Clinton in disguise.
How many times we disregard small important details in what we see considering
them unimportant? How many times we are fooled by this into seeing and remembering something false? How many things around us are never seen and so lost
for our memory because of this peculiar way of our brain of processing things?
For example, when we look at some image, a check of the eye movements shows
that instead of scanning the entire image, we fix our attention and scan again
and again always the same points of the image. In this way we can look at the
same image hundreths of times and never see some interesting detail.

False memories

[Added May 1997]Of course, we all know how imperfect
human memory is. You check your recollection of a family episode with a relative
discovering that it is very different from what you remembered. But it is
possible to remember something that has never happened? Yes and it is very
easy to demonstrate it! This wonderful article from May 97 Scientific American shows how to
create false memories.You ask to someone to remember a list of words like
bed, rest, awake, tired, dream, wake, snooze, blanket, doze, slumber, snore, nap, peace, yawn, drowsy . These words are all connected with a hidden word “sleep”.
Then, when you check the memory of the subject, there is a very high probability
that he remembers the word “sleep” as one of the words to memorize!
It seems like a trick, but it shows how our brain can be easily fooled. Most
of the subjects are absolutely convinced that the word “sleep” was present
in the original list.