Scary Subconscious Fat
A training client reminded me how memory works. It’s like playing the telephone game (aka Broken Telephone or Pass the Message.) As a child in nursery school, I was placed in a circle of kids, and a message was written down. The teacher would whisper that message in one student’s ear with instructions to whisper that message around the circle. By the time the message went around, it was different. We were taught how essential listening is, but there was missing Subconscious Fat.
The Subconscious Fat is that this is also how memory works. Whenever we recall a memory, we often subconsciously add or delete parts of it.
In other words, memory is malleable.
Mr. Skeptical comments, “So what did you add or delete from that memory of yours from nursery school?”
He’s so irritating. “I’ll admit I don’t recall seeing the teacher write a message down, but I logically concluded that she did because it’d be easier to know the original message.”
Mr. Skeptical stands up and points an accusing finger at me. “So, this means some of the stories you’ve published in this newsletter are bullshit.”
I hate him. I hate him; I hate him; I hate him.
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Subconscious Fat at 30,000 feet
Dr. Julia Shaw, a German-Canadian psychologist specializing in false memories, has done fascinating research proving that cognitive techniques and social pressure can get individuals to ‘remember’ crimes they never committed.
Mr. Skeptical is leaning over my shoulder, watching some of Dr. Shaw’s YouTube videos. “She’s hot.”
I give Mr. Skeptical a dirty look. “This isn’t about her being ‘hot’. Keep this professional, you Neanderthal.”
Dr. Julia Shaw isn’t the only one who’s done similar experiments proving that memories can be implanted through suggestions; so has Dr. Elizabeth Loftus. She had subjects ‘remember’ being attacked by wild animals and drowning.
The fantastic thing about the power of suggestions is that about 70% of the test subjects can be manipulated by leading questions to create false memories.
“Did you really jump off the Haulover Bridge?”
I glare at Mr. Skeptical. “Yes, I did. It wasn’t such a big deal. A lot of people did back in the day.” Why do I put up with him? He’s such an asshole!
Subconscious Fat at 10,000 feet
The terrifying consequence of memories being able to be manipulated is that many people have been falsely accused of crimes. In Dr. Loftus’s TED talk she shows how hundreds of jailed inmates have been exonerated due to DNA evidence. Most of these falsely accused perpetrators were visually misidentified by victims and witnesses, and many spent years or even decades in jail! In that TED talk, you see some comparisons of the actual perpetrator and the misidentified individuals. Many of them look nothing alike!
“Yeah, if you happen to be tough or mean-looking, that can go against you.”
Wow, for once, Mr. Skeptical and I agree on something!
But he ruins it by asking, “Did you really get kicked out of the Kitchen Club?”
“Yes, I did. I even reconnected with my French friend, who accompanied me that night to verify what I wrote.”
Mr. Skeptical is such a prick!
Subconscious Fat at Eye-Level
Damn it! I hate to admit Mr. Skeptical’s right, but there was a mistake.
In the post What I learned on Mother’s Day my mother poured a bowl of cereal over my head. I have no memory of this, but my mother and sister claim this happened. However, I assumed it was because I ate my sister’s food. After I posted, my sister told me it wasn’t because I ate her food; it was because I’d splash my leftover juice or milk from my cup into her face.
“Gross, what a mean brother you were.”
“I’m assuming this happened because when I’m done eating with others, which is usually before everyone else, I eye other people’s food, hoping there’ll be leftovers for me. I’ve been told I have Food FOMO (fear of missing out).”
“Yeah, that sounds like you.”
“I added my current behavior to the memory. Consequently, changing the story. Both psychologists Shaw and Loftus say people do this, proving that memories are malleable.”
“Since you don’t remember your mom pouring an entire bowl of cereal on your head, maybe eating other people’s leftover food is a way of subconsciously dealing with that traumatic event.”
I give Mr. Skeptical a dirty look. He’d make a horrible mental therapist.
Practical Suggestions and Conclusions
Mr. Skeptical stands up again, pointing his index finger at me. “When you found out that the Mother’s Day post was inaccurate, you should’ve changed it.”
“Well, I was planning on doing that eventually.”
“You could’ve changed it immediately.”
I’m pissed. I don’t have to put up with his bullshit. I get up.
Mr. Skeptical adds, “I’ll finish this post today. You don’t deserve to finish it.”
I’m so tempted to punch him, but I say, “Fine!” and walk out.
Hello readers. It’s just you and me again. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write directly to you without Hermann. I last achieved this with the post Remember the Kitchen Club.
Even more satisfying is when I make him angry, and he walks out. I loved it when that happened in the post: How the Clinton Sex Scandal Altered Romantic Relationships. It feels so good to uncover Subconscious Fat in his life. He shouldn’t be trying to communicate about Subconscious Fat when he has so much of his own.
The suggestion for today’s post is obvious. Be aware that memories are malleable and not consistently accurate. Even your own!