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Sep 05

THE FT TOP 23 UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA: 23: False Memory

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I don’t mean false memory syndrome as in the therapy definition. A dangerous buzzword: it allows the defense that childhood memories of abuse have been implanted by “predatory” psychologists. Could this happen? Well certainly, and what is more – if you hate your parents, inventing physical abuse where there was only the slow drip drip of psychological loathing is tempting. Nevertheless the invention of false memory syndrome has made a lot of work for “experts”, who play the game well and make proclamations such as a five year-old has no real long term memory. Not to mention work for the “experts” who say the opposite. Everyone is happy.

But this is not about that kind of False Memory, I mean the kind that isn’t a syndrome. The kind that is a memory of doing something, that you know you have not done. Closely related to Deja Vu (though that is a memory of doing something you are doing now) it has very similar psychological explanations. Mainly that the human brain is so gosh darn complex that we get the sensation of remembrance by accident. Well, that is okay for Deja Vu – as the content of the memory is what we are currently experiencing, but how about false memory? How can we remember something without somewhere along the line creating the content of that memory?

Let me give you an example. I have a firm memory of sitting upstairs in The Blue Posts on Newman Street, with Tom, Sinker, Magnus, Carsmile, Alang, Starry and Alix, doing a round-the-table on the top 23 Unexplained Phenomena. I remember vividly what came in at 23 (False Memory). I remember some of the arguments, the jokes regarding how many different types of ghosts were actually allowed (poltergeist yes, kids with sheets over them, no). I remember a particularly virulent argument re the Bermuda Triangle which involved me and Tom singing the song at least once and being given dirty looks by the Polish barmaid when we shouted “WOMAN ARE YOU MAD”. I remember it well.

AND YET NONE OF THIS HAPPENED!!!!

So come psychologists, bear in mind that I could not have dreamt this, as I do not dream. So why do I remember it, to the extent I have a list of the other 22 Unexplained Phenomena written down.

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