The human memory is not infallible. Things get lost in the shuffle constantly. We’re in a shopping mall parking lot and somehow our car gets lost. We misplace our keys or our phones. We don’t remember people’s names. We forget things that other people tend to remember. We black out entirely.
Memory can become more clear in certain situations. A study from 2015 displays the craziness that is memory’s relationship to reality. Researchers in 2015 convinced people that they had committed some incredibly serious crimes as teenagers. The disturbing and intriguing study asked people to recall extremely specific details as they related to things that actually never happened. Through a strange combination of immersion therapy people were actually convinced they had done things that were completely unspeakable.
They recalled details like places, people and weapons that were used in the fictitious crimes. What a strange phenomenon right? Can the human mind fill in blanks based on things that never happened?
The Boston Globe reported last week that a British man named Alpha Kabeja came out of a coma with the memories of someone else. These things he recalled didn’t actually happen.
Apparently Kabeja was biking when he was struck by a van. He was hit so unbelievably hard that his brain was knocked around inside of his skull and displaced, kind of like a dislocated shoulder. Doctors warned his family that he may not remember a single thing before the accident. What actually occurred was quite different. He woke up full of memories, except the memories were someone else’s. None of what the man remembered was true. None of it happened. It was almost like the memories were transplanted.
His medically induced coma probably saved his life, but also destroyed his memory.
Some of the crazy things he recalled included a job interview, some sort of pregnancy, some private plane and an MI6 mission. These memories weren’t rooted in reality. Some of them reminded people of plots in movies, or deep subconscious renderings of twisted information.
The man’s brain was going the extra mile to fill in regular information. It had been jostled around so violently that certain cortexes were doing overtime to recover from the trauma. Some recollections ended up checking out with previous events, but others were twisted and malformed.
The false memories were definitely a phenomenon that had to be studied. The memory is still, largely a mystery, but as studies conclude and people become smarter, the memory becomes easier to understand.