For one thing, due to our limited powers of attention (see Day One) we never get the whole story to begin with. Then, every time we recall an event our minds edit and interpret and embellish, like a fish story.
And we do an especially inaccurate job on emotionally loaded events; we freight those memories with so much emotional baggage that they become personal fairy tales more than actual recollections.
This is bad news for criminal prosecutors who rely on witness testimony and for psychoanalysts delving into their patients’ childhood traumas, but it’s good news for those of us who have discovered that we can pick and choose the memories we want to cherish or discard, edit our memories for the better, and plan events so as to create wonderful memories we can treasure.
When Alan Alda was writing his memoirs, he related an important childhood event that, upon fact-checking, turned out to have never occurred; he became fascinated by the topic of false and reconstructed memory and helped create a whole PBS series about it.
Here’s one excerpt about Memory and Emotion (which happens to link back nicely to Day Two).
Watching this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman taught me to give up dwelling on painful past events (who knows by now if they even happened the way I recall?), and gave me some very clever tips on how to plan my life so as to maximize the good memories I will have in the future!
Here are two more good TED talks and two good articles: