Those were the days

The record-breaking Taiwanese romance "You are the apple of my eye", which depicts the movie director's own high school love story, brings around a current of reminiscence in the city. Writings and videos titled "Those were the days….." flourished on social network wall posts, blogs and websites. Unknowingly, we all slip into the time tunnel, yearning for the memories of the good old days.

MEMORY is an important storage space of our personal experiences. Without it, we would probably lose our sense of self.

Yet, interestingly, memory is barely accurate. Have you ever had the experience when you are so sure about something you remembered but later realize it could not have happened? 

To investigate memory functioning, psychologists conducted an experiment. They showed a video in which there was a car accident at a "STOP" sign to a group of participants. Later, some of the participants were asked a question about a "YIELD" sign: "How fast was the car going when it reached the YIELD sign?". A week later, all participants were invited to recall the video. Most of those who were asked the misleading question falsely remembered that the cars crashed at a "YIELD" sign.

This is what we called "Constructive Memory" in psychology. Human memory storage system works very differently from computer hard disc. Memory is not stored in a particular drive. Instead, different sensations of an event like visual images, sounds, speech are stored in different parts of the brain. And when we recall the event, our brain would uncover these bits and pieces and integrate them into a meaningful story. The process of integration is highly susceptible to our mood, expectations and new knowledge or experience. In the experiment we discussed, the participants had falsely integrated the information of "YIELD" sign from the misleading questions to the accident.

Therefore, every time when we summon up, information would go through the integration process again and be given new meanings.

May be 10 years later, the memories of our good old days would be a totally different narrative?