How Our Minds Reconstruct Memories: 'Not The Replay Of The Experience,' Says UC Davis Neuroscientist


Charan Ranganath, a UC Davis neuroscientist, reveals that our memories are reconstructions, not replays, of experiences, highlighting the bias in how we remember events.

What Happened: Drawing from Daniel Kahneman‘s concepts of the “experiencing self and the remembering self,” Ranganath highlights a fundamental insight: Our memories do not simply replay our experiences; instead, they form a reconstructed and often biased version of events.

During a discussion with Lex Fridman, Ranganath, author of “Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory's Power to Hold On To What Matters,” shared how Kahneman’s teaching profoundly influenced his understanding of memory.

A nostalgic and emotional horizontal scene. Image Generated Using Dall-E 3

He noted that while we live through moments, selective highlights and significant emotional peaks shape the way we recall these moments later, not a detailed chronological playback.

“…the idea there is that the way we remember things is not the replay of the experience, it's something totally different.”

“…we don't replay the past, we imagine how the past could have been by taking bits and pieces that come up in our heads.”

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Ranganath states that memories are particularly influenced by the beginnings and ends of experiences, as well as the most intense moments, whether good or bad. These elements form the basis of the memories we often revisit and use to make future decisions.

This selective memory process, according to Ranganath, is not just a unique quirk of human cognition but a biologically evolved trait that serves a practical purpose. It essentially allows us to retain the most relevant and impactful information to better navigate future scenarios.

This understanding challenges the common perception of memory as a faithful recorder of reality, presenting it as a creative process vital for decision-making and daily functioning.

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Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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Posted In: EntertainmentNewsPsychologyGeneralCharan RanganathLex Fridman
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