You too may have a case of the “reminiscence bump”, if when asked to choose the best or favourite of anything, be it music, film, a memory, or even a sports-person, you select an example from your late teenage years, rather than from a later, or the present, time.
This term describes the fact that when you ask people to name the most memorable events in their lives, they tend to refer to things that happened to them in their teens and early twenties. Recently it’s been shown that a similar effect occurs when you ask people to name their favourite music, books and films, with them tending to pick out content from their youth.
A link between above average reading skills, and poor facial recognition abilities, has been uncovered by researchers who have found that both cognitive functions utilise the same area of the brain, which seems to suggest that we can only excel at one or the other, but not both.
Unsurprisingly, those who were better readers had more activation in this area when they were reading compared with the others. And when volunteers listened to spoken sentences, all their brains showed similar responses in the visual word form area. But when the researchers showed participants pictures of faces, the visual word form area of those who could read was much less active than that of participants who could not read.
Each time we recall a memory we are subtly re-editing it. The more we recall something, the more the original memory changes, to the point, I imagine, that we eventually forget what actually happened.
A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. The larger moral of the experiment is that memory is a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. It shows us that every time we remember anything, the neuronal structure of the memory is delicately transformed, or reconsolidated.
Having a good memory has its drawbacks, as we may come to overly rely on our recall to find many of life’s necessities, such as food.
If, for instance, we never forget where the supermarket is, then we may lose the ability to keep our options open when it comes to sourcing food. Those with a poor memory will forget the location of one supermarket though, and develop the habit of looking for others.
Needless to say, this could severely disadvantage those who are used to only going to Food Station C, (or whatever it was, I forget)…
Take as an example the question: if the ability to remember is such a good thing, why hasn’t evolution given us photographic memories? The answer according to Boyer and Walsh’s model is because we’d starve when the local supermarket went out of business.
It seems we never actually forget anything that has happened to us, we simply have trouble recalling certain events after a time.
Using advanced brain imaging techniques, the scientists discovered that a person’s brain activity while remembering an event is very similar to when it was first experienced, even if specifics can’t be recalled.