“Humans are programmed to forget”

Remember what you had for dinner the day before yesterday? Now go further in time: where were you when the 11-M attack happened?

These two questions illustrate the difference between the two types of memory. On the one hand, there is semantic memory.a, which determines our ability to remember specific facts, such as what we eat. And, on the other hand, episodicity, which can be defined as the ability to mentally “travel” into the past and recreate, even if blurred, a specific scene. According to the doctor Charan Ranganathwhom we might call Doctor Memory, episodic memory depends on imagination and this is what allows us to remember how we feel after the terrorist attacks in the Spanish capital, even though more than 20 years have passed.

This neuroscientist, a professor at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, reformulates in his new book: Why we remember: the new science of memory (Ed. Peninsula), many of the preconceived notions that people have about memories. For him We’ve spent many decades trying to understand why we forget things, when the question we should be asking is why we remember them..

I am fascinated by the selectivity with which the brain works.that focuses on new, surprising or important information,” says Ranganath from his California home, in the room where his guitar collection hangs. Because this Indian scientist who is in charge Dynamic Memory Laboratory, University of California He is not only a professor of psychology, but also the leader of a punk band called – very aptly – Pavlovs Dogz (Pavlov’s Dogs).

According to their research, memories of your child’s first birthday or first date with your partner fade over time. imagination helps fill in the gaps and perhaps the data for that particular day is updated. “The act of remembering is just those little pieces that we selectively put into memory, combined with the imagination that we use to create a story out of them,” says Ranganath.

“I like to think that memory is more like a painting than a photograph.”

Charan Ranganath

Here, Memories can take on a life of their own, making us vulnerable to “false memories.”. When asked how we distinguish reality from fantasy, Rangathan explains: the difference is based on the quality of memories: “Imaginary events focus more on our thoughts, so they are less detailed and vivid than the events we experience in reality.”

Thus, the distinction between true and false memories becomes blurred. “I like to think that memory is more like a painting than a photograph,” he says. So, Each person is the “artist” of his memory, which imprints on it his motives and prejudices experienced in the past.. Thus, he constructs it not as a static record, but as something dynamic, creative and impressionistic.

An interesting factor in Charan Ranganath’s work on memory is the mechanism of “non-memory”. “We are made to forget“, he states bluntly.

The place where you left your keys, or the name that eludes you, is little remembered, so we easily forget them. The opposite happens with traumatic events that multiply to warn us of future dangers. An example of this type is the most characteristic, most emotionally arousing experiences, for example, all those associated with avoiding or facing a threat. “Our memories are not only the answer, but also the key to our survival.” says Ranganath.

So, if we understand memory as legacy, we must ask ourselves what memories of survival we will leave for future generations. Are we good ancestors in relation to memory? “We live in a time when most of our memories are transmitted digitally, and that is why I think it is our responsibility now to be very careful about spreading false information,” responds Ranganath. “At this point, we have a responsibility not so much to pass on memories, but to be very careful in preserving them.“.

Everything is preserved in memory: old love, the hopes of those who lost, those who fell in any war. Ranganath reflects on how a nation can preserve these memories and at the same time continue to build its collective memory. “In this sense, nostalgia has enormous power, so much so that it influences our lives,” he says.

It causes happiness and sadness, depending on the revived memory. The weapon, according to the researcher, can be double-edged. “In the US now people talk about how great the country was.“, he says. “If you look back, you will see that people like Hitler, Mao and Stalin did the same thing. “By changing the story, creating prejudices and presenting distorted information, you can create the impression that the present is bad.”

For this he quotes Project “Forgiveness” from a colleague who is investigating the trauma caused by the armed conflict in Colombia, whose banner is Celia Cruz’s phrase: “To forgive is not to forget, to forgive is to remember without pain.” Ranganathan uses this to show that the key is not to try to forget the past, but to change the way you think: “It is essential to be able to look back in a way that allows us to learn,because in many societies we remember the past but don’t learn from it“.

But to what extent can we control our memories to our advantage? “One is to look ahead and ask yourself: What do I want to remember later?“, suggests the neuroscientist. To understand this, he explains the difference between the “me that experiences” and the “me that remembers”: that is, the one who makes decisions.

This explains that The happiness and satisfaction we derive from the results of our decisions actually depends less on what we experience in the moment and more on what we remember.. With this in mind, Doctor Memory suggests: “At the end of the day, think about the things you are grateful for, the events that made you happy. And when you look back, practice remembering the events that made you feel good.”

If you’ve made it this far, think: what do you remember from everything you read? Don’t force yourself. If Charan Ranganath makes one thing clear, it is the importance of preserving what you consider truly important. And the way your brain works will help you achieve this.

Why we remember: the new science of memory

Charan Ranganath.

Publishing house “Peninsula”. 408 pages. 19.85 euros. You can buy it here

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button