Distorted Memory Keep a Diary!
How reliable is your memory, especially when it may stand in the way of something you want? I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
May: We are saying that people in general, in order to achieve whatever end they’re trying to achieve, can distort their memories, even when evidence is right there in front of their face to the contrary.
Frank May is an assistant professor in the marketing department in the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech. He conducted a number of tests to study the memories of people who think of themselves as impulsive.
May: For example, in one study, we gave them a couple of candies. Then we let about 30 minutes pass. Then we asked them, either when they had a temptation in front of them or not, “How long ago did you have those candies? Was it a short time ago or a long time ago?” Those who were impulsive when they have candies in front of them to eat, they say, “Oh, it’s been forever. A long time ago.”
Anything an impulsive person can do to reboot his memory?
May: If you know you’re kind of impulsive, you would do well by keeping perhaps a diary of things you’ve done in the past. You can keep a food diary. When you go to eat that piece of cheesecake, you can look at the food diary and see, “oh, I just had a cheesecake two days ago, or yesterday I had a burger and fries. It hasn’t been so long. Perhaps I shouldn’t have this cheesecake”.
Our research also finds that people distort perceptions of good things they’ve done, right? If you’re thinking, “Oh, should I go to the gym?” Impulsive people will say, “Oh, yeah. I’ve been to the gym 7,000 times already,” or, “I was just at the gym a little while ago.”
Again, you can keep a track of the good things you’re doing as well. For example, going to the gym or lifting weights or running or whatnot. Then, if you’re faced with a choice, “huh, should I sleep a little later today or should I get up and work out?” Look at your little diary. You would realize it hasn’t been that often you have been working out. You might distort your memories. This can kind of correct them. This tells me that memory is highly subjective. Memory can mean a million different things to a million different people in a million different contexts.
More about memory and impulse in future programs. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.