Are Memories Reliable?

by Moin Uddin Ahmed Tipu

Our memories are who we are–they make up our personalities and our history. But can they be trusted? Laci looks at how our own memory works and how it’s failing us every day of our lives.

Read More:

“The Truth About Photographic Memory”

“It’s impossible to recover images with perfect accuracy. The myth of photographic memory.”

“Is there such a thing as a photographic memory? And if so, can it be learned?”

“In the scientific literature, the term eidetic imagery comes closest to what is popularly called photographic memory.”

“Photographic Memory: A Look at Eidetic Imagery in the Brain”

“In theory, photographic memory involves the ability to remember things so vividly that an actual image is retained in the mind.”

DNews is a show about the science of everyday life. We post two new videos every day of the week.

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Billy The Goat July 27, 2013 - 11:06 AM

Even the start of this video is now a memory.
Me: I already forgot the start..

tanner1ie July 31, 2013 - 2:25 AM

I'M Batman! :) .

Froggyy July 31, 2013 - 3:53 AM

But the type of memories that you choose to focus on and keep in your mind shows who you are in the long run. For example: The experiment where they told people to focus on something and while they were trying to do that, a guy in a bear suit just walked around the room and the funny thing is, most of the people didnt even recall seeing the bear suit.

James Sellstrom July 31, 2013 - 5:13 AM

For some reason when I think of a triangle I can remember Math conversions.

brokenbeforetime August 2, 2013 - 4:32 PM

"Like a YouTube video.. but, you know.. in my brain" lol

Carousel Blind. August 17, 2013 - 10:58 PM

"I have your brain scanned and permanently backed up in case something terrible happens to you, which it's just about to." "Don't believe me? Here, I'll put you on: [Hellooo!] That's you! That's how dumb you sound." ~GLaDOS.

brostepisthebest August 25, 2013 - 3:52 AM

i can't explain it but my visual memory just is allot better at remembering things in real life (on paper) than a computer (screen)

Crimson Haze September 1, 2013 - 7:17 PM

Honestly I dont remember what happens just a while ago but after some days or time I recall that time that I forgot damn

CyberDork34 September 4, 2013 - 7:37 AM

Cam Janson is a lie!!

Tomas K September 8, 2013 - 4:54 PM

False, nothing is actually forgotten, the brain saves everything. Smell, thought, taste, feeling, ect. It's just surpressed because it wasn't relevant at the time.

Crazzeh September 11, 2013 - 9:45 PM

YES! Free batteries incoming!

ratthechicken September 16, 2013 - 12:42 PM

I sometimes get a thought in my head, and I can't remember if it is a memory of a dream, or something that actually happened. other times my memories will be comprised of just emotion with no sensory basis.

My Nickname Is Keno September 25, 2013 - 9:30 AM

Sometimes I remember, but in third person O.o So I can literally see my self.

PoofTheCloud September 26, 2013 - 6:20 AM

when i was a kid i always thought my baby cousin bit me for no reson but what realy happen was that i hit hin first and he had to hit me back :) so memories get janked up for me to look good

Kebra des Bois September 29, 2013 - 5:34 PM

We live in approximative lies based on limited senses… who needs drugs… ^^

orlendatube October 6, 2013 - 4:53 AM

neither my boyfriend nor i can remember "our first time"….its kinda sad….wish we had taped it! I do have vivid memories of the first time we held hands and our first kiss though…seems odd…

orlendatube October 6, 2013 - 4:56 AM

i cant disagree more-i am a brave person because of all the shit i have been through….if i couldnt remember those experiences i wouldnt be who i am….

orlendatube October 6, 2013 - 5:05 AM

doing things to work on brain plasticity can help with those issues….you CAN reprogram your brain to work better!

1Hephaestus October 14, 2013 - 6:11 AM

No, you're Justin Green. But I respect your enthusiasm ^_^

Nora Ann October 15, 2013 - 5:55 AM

it would be cool if we had one of those things in our heads (finale cut movie)

PianoMastR64 October 16, 2013 - 4:10 AM

You can be sure of who you really are by living in the moment instead of relying on the past.

HawkSupport October 20, 2013 - 2:40 AM

So my brain thinks that school work is "Junk"?

PaparoniFilms October 26, 2013 - 8:29 AM

Belize. They went to Belize :'(

Firaro November 16, 2013 - 12:10 AM

i actually have certain memories where im not sure whether the memory is more reliable or my memory of recalling that memory earlier because they do not match exactly, i am thinking my memory of recalling that memory and interpreting it is now the more reliable version

Virtuous I November 19, 2013 - 2:18 AM

I will like to travel to everyone's memories.  How does my reality differentiate from yours?  That is a good question.

DreadlyKnight November 25, 2013 - 5:01 AM

My mind was blown…

Wolf Walker November 26, 2013 - 3:19 AM

I once had a dream where I went on holiday with my grandparents.  Because that was just after I actually came back from holiday for weeks later I was convinced that they had shown up during the holiday until I tried speaking to them about it.  Awkward.  There was another time I saw a film as an even younger child and after I while I started to think some film scenes were actually memories until years later when I saw the film again and realised the memories were false.  Now I can't even remember the film but I bet I'd remember if I saw it again.

Proud, Loud and Well Endowed December 3, 2013 - 6:46 AM

I can memorize whole books then throw them in my neural recycle bin. Literally
If my brain thinks somethings important Ill have a really vivid memory and even manage to convince myself I can smell, hear and taste some stuff that was there although its just an illusion.

PlainsPup December 11, 2013 - 9:15 PM

It's not a "pneumonic" device; it's a mnemonic device.

Valkriecain99 December 24, 2013 - 12:01 AM

I have a friend who is extremely paranoid about this, that her memories arent really what happened. But even further than what Laci said, like she says that maybe her bf is actually her enemy. If she saw this then…well, she would have even more reason to believe that its true. xD

Magical Math Rainbows January 3, 2014 - 10:26 AM

your brain is a 5D theatre then.

Audrey Gaffney February 14, 2014 - 9:51 AM

So what you're saying is that every time I have "memory" it's really just me making up what I think happened that day?

Lily Dalbkce February 17, 2014 - 8:16 AM

I vividly remember being really little and on a ride at a nearby theme park. This theme park had a Paul Bunyan ride and in this memory, Paul Bunyan would drop his axe down. Sometimes it would hit right in front of your lock, just stopping you until he lifted it until you could move, and other times it hit your log and you died. I vividly remember the axe coming down right in front of our log. To help install this memory, we had a picture displayed of my brother, dad, and myself on this ride. I went years thinking that this ride had a killer giant robot on it.
Now, I have gone on that ride nearly 100 times since realizing that it didn't have a killer robot, which really makes me think that it was just a dream. I remember remembering it when I was younger and debating whether or not it was a dream but because of the picture, I just figured that it was real.

Penguin The Yeti February 26, 2014 - 10:40 AM

Ever questioned my memories of something that happened in the past. I looked back twice to make sure you asked that question. And yes, I do ALL THE TIME!!!! When I get a text from someone I check 3 times to make sure I'm answering the right thing, or talking to the right person. this has happened for a while, i remember it starting when I watched a Star Trek TNG episode that had Worf traveled to different dimensions and different things happening. Ever since i've been paranoid about remembering things correctly…

TheElasticTuba March 14, 2014 - 7:45 AM

So you're saying I have another reason to call my life a lie? Great…..

Kennie Diamond March 17, 2014 - 3:19 AM

i remember this video… or do i?.. fk.

xia0pr0ice March 23, 2014 - 12:25 AM

Since Young I Change/Edit Memories Of My Past Just To Lie & Adapt Better.
But I Been Doing It For Too Mani Years That Now I'm Confuse What Is Real & What Is Edited Lol.

RanguGamer April 10, 2014 - 6:53 AM

And this is why "To The Moon" is such a great game

Tavi6233 April 19, 2014 - 9:32 AM

So I once went to camp for 2 weeks and made friends with a guy, we were together almost all the time.  After I left I could remember specific things that we did but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't remember his face.

mechanesthesia August 29, 2014 - 2:19 PM

"Memory is more or less composed of little bits from all your senses, sight, touch, smell, sound, taste, and these pieces are somewhat clumsily arranged into a narrative… What you remember isn't always exactly what happened.  It changes every time you recall it.  Yet, your identity, who you are, what you know about the world and yourself is determined by all the things that you remember… So if life is composed of memories and memories are in flux and prone to distortion, how can you even be sure of who you really are?"
If we extrapolate this, then we can say that we have the power to change who we are by changing our memories.  This is pretty much what therapy is.  Healing through the repositioning of past memories from something traumatic to something neutral by perceiving it with a new understanding which extracts all the negative emotions tied onto it which may be currently affecting in a subconscious instinctual level.  i.e. Overcoming a particular fear in real time by revisiting the memory of what caused it in the first place.

Golgotha_Mythos69 September 3, 2014 - 9:30 AM

I took a self-help seminar years ago known as "the Landmark Forum". One of the main lessons I still use today is what they called "Already always listening", which basically means each of us thinks we already know what people are saying to us, and remember it accordingly. This is especially true of people we know & love! If you have a "story" in your subconscious about how things go in your life….say if your a pessimist, like me. You will tend to remember many social events more negatively than people who are more optimistic, or who think everyone loves them. It's a self-esteem issue. There are millions of different ways a given person could remember or rather, experience the same event, based on past experiences, but mostly based on what they have trained themselves to perceive and/or not perceive as the event is happening. This PROFOUNDLY determines what memory is stored.
   For example, it is only now, in middle age that I realize HOW MANY TIMES cute girls came up and stood next to me at clubs, bars, parties,etc. At the time I was convinced no one gave a shit about me, so that is what I saw, and thus said nothing. Now I know these girls were likely hoping I would say wassup, it's just I was too set in my negative, self-loathing ways to see it. The same is true of other experiences like making people laugh (as opposed to thinking they are laughing AT me), or doing a good job and getting praise for it (as opposed to thinking I failed and people are "just being nice").  We perceive reality AND remember events based on our presuppositions about ourselves and others.

Misa'Dventures September 4, 2014 - 3:51 AM

A strange thing happened to me one time. For the first time I studied, otherwise I was going to fail the 9th grade, and I "memorized" eight pages. The thing is… When asked questions (friend helping me study) I could not answer but what I could do is "Hey, let me read the pages instead… Without looking at them obviously". I started reading and just to tease her I said "comma" just to show how accurate I was. I had literally created an image of the sheets, I could visualized them in front of me. So I ended up doing the test and had to read it in my head because I could only visualize the sheets as I did not actually memorized the content, kind of just created a high quality image of it.

I did so well that the principal called me to congratulate me for having the best mark on that test and it being written like a higher grade student. No shit, anyone with a cheat sheet would be able to do that, but fortunately for me no one could see the cheat sheet other than me.

SapphireNinja98 November 16, 2014 - 11:08 PM

Sometimes when I think up a memory I can't tell if it was a dream or if it really happened.

Pepita BG February 15, 2015 - 11:10 PM

That's awesome! Thanks for your videos, so helpful and interesting, and special thanks for the additional materials that you suggest! Great job! 

SinusQuell May 9, 2015 - 10:56 PM


daniel webster June 1, 2016 - 2:13 PM


Ravinder Singh June 6, 2016 - 5:59 AM

i want to forget this video

The Tower King June 15, 2016 - 8:15 PM

da i have a ready dun that. and i will again