Your Memory Is Like the Telephone Game

Remember the telephone game, where people would take turns whispering a message into the ear of the person next to them? By the time the last person speaks it out loud, the message has radically changed, having been altered with each retelling. It turns out that your memory is a lot like that game. Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. So, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time. As explained by Donna Bridge of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, a memory isn’t simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event. It can be an image that’s somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it. Your memory of an event can grow less precise, even to the point of being totally false. Memories aren’t static, meaning if you remember something in the context of a new environment and time, or even if you’re in a different mood, your memories might integrate that new information and slightly alter it.