September 17, 2017 – Plastic Bowling Balls

One the more interesting books I recently finished was, “You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself” by  David McRaney. Getting past the rather off-putting title, it was actually a pretty good book. One of the chapters in the book I’d like to talk about, is how your memory is not as good as you think. He cites studies that show, interestingly enough, that we tend to fill in gaps in our memory much like all of us have a blind spot in the back of the retina. If you haven’t done the experiment I suggest you Google blind spot  in your retina and follow the instructions, you’ll see that indeed, there is a spot on the back of your eye where you are essentially blind.

McRaney suggests, and research backs this up, that we also do the same thing with our memories. I have one personal example of this phenomena to share. When I was 6, my brother and I were playing in our bedroom when one of us, and I believe this is where the phenomena takes place, threw a plastic bowling ball through the window. I distinctly remember my brother throwing the bowling ball. My brother on the other hand, distinctly remembers me throwing the bowling ball. Without a doubt, a plastic bowling ball was thrown through the window, and my brother and I were punished for it. But all these years later, even though there is no punishment, or threat of punishment, we both insist the other one threw the bowling ball. I am convinced that if both of us took a polygraph, we would both pass. How is this so?

According to McRaney, one of us has filled in that memory with a false one of the other brother throwing the ball through the window. It is as vivid and real as the actual memory one of us holds. It must be noted that after reading McRaney’s book, I’m not so sure that my memory is the true one, even though I can close my eyes and see my nine-year-old brother throwing the plastic bowling ball as clear as day.

But is that a true memory? It’s a fascinating concept and I would highly encourage anyone with an interest in how memories are made to read the book. There are also many interesting anecdotes about how you really can’t trust eyewitness testimony because of the same phenomena. McRaney also has a website worth a visit https://youarenotsosmart.com/.

On second thought – he threw the darn bowling ball, I’m sure of it.

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