We humans tend to remember the things we want to remember and forget the things we’d rather forget because our minds are drawn to what feels true, not what’s necessarily so. That means a significant part of human memories are mostly fiction.
Yesterday when I logged into my Facebook account, it showed a picture which I had posted three years ago. In the picture I was celebrating my birthday with colleagues in the office. Although I had completely forgotten about the picture, it brought a smile on my face.
I just couldn’t remember being present when that picture was taken. My brain had conveniently erased that incident from my memory. I am sure it happens with others and Facebook knows it. So they introduced this fascinating feature. Bringing back those lost memories creates a pleasant experience which isn’t much different from the one when you find money in your old pant pockets.
How would it be if we never forgot anything? Why does our brain choose to remember something and forget others? Is there an evolutionary reason behind this behavioural quirk? Let’s explore these questions today.
In 2005, Deb Roy and Rupal Patel, a scientist couple from MIT designed a system called “Total Recall”. It was a set up to record (audio and video) everything in their lives starting from the day they brought home their newborn son. The intention was to discover the patterns in how a child learns language. They installed cameras and microphones in every room and stored all the recordings in a hard disk which was to be transcribed and analysed later. The experiment lasted for 2 years and it did reveal interesting insights about various stages in language development of a child but what made this experiment hugely remarkable was an array of serendipitous discoveries about human brain.
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