The other day I found out that an old memory from my schooldays was false. I thought I’d known somebody at school, but there is no way I could have known them because we were not there at the same time.
It wasn’t someone I thought I remembered knowing personally by the way – I’m not that far gone. It was more like a disembodied factoid hovering around my school memories. I only discovered it to be false accidentally – it wasn't something I checked out deliberately.
Coming across a false memory is odd and quite a surprise. Now it is turning into a memory of having had a false memory - the original false memory already fading away.
Suppose I had another childhood memory where I went shopping for my mother and came back with butter, bread and eggs. However although this memory is an old one and I have no way of confirming its accuracy, it sticks in my memory for some reason. Maybe I dropped the box of eggs and broke one.
As my mother is no longer with us there is no way I can check what really happened. As far as I know it may be inaccurate or false in that it happened to someone else. Surely this is one of the pitfalls of memories – they need some kind of confirmation if they are to be relied on. Even then there may be inaccuracies.
Is it possible that memory becomes less and less reliable over time but it doesn’t matter because it cannot be checked? Or does it become unreliable because we make less use of it?
How about attitudes? Do you remember earlier versions of your attitudes as they change over the years? Or have your attitudes never changed? Or do you fail to remember the change because you no longer have those attitudes?
Maybe the electronics revolution and social websites are destined to change all that. Eventually we won’t need a memory at all because everything we need to know about ourselves is stored online. If they aren’t confirmed online, memories will be seen as false and will fade away.