Old people might say that, although they might have trouble remembering what they did an hour or day ago, their memories of what they did 50 years ago are crystal clear and they would be wrong.
An article in the Guardian newspaper entitled :
'The mythical memories: How a fifth of us fondly recall happy events... that never actually happened' put paid to that idea.
It made the following points, that :
* according to scientists, many of our most treasured memories may never have actually happened and one in five people vividly recall incidents which they know did not take place.
* this explains why two people can have such different recollections of the same conversations and events.
* University of Hull researchers asked 1,600 students whether they 'had experienced a false memory?' and a fifth said they had experienced 'fictional' memories, mostly dating back to when they were four to eight years old.
* One volunteer claimed to have had vivid memories of being a hockey player,even though her parents confirmed she had never played hockey in her life.
* in many cases, people continued to have memories of events after their parents or siblings had told them they could not have happened.
* although 'autobiographical memory' provides us with a sense of identity and is usually accurate enough 'to help us negotiate our lives', the phenomenon of 'non-believed' memories is much more frequent than people had imagined.
Jean Piaget, the Swiss who died 30 years ago vividly remembered being kidnapped in a park at the age of two, while out with his nurse and even had memories of the scratches on his nurse's face, caused by the attacker. However, when he was 15, the nurse confessed that she had fabricated the story at this point Jean no longer believed he was kidnapped but was unable to stop remembering the traumatic event.
The Tom Rush song on of the loss of short term memory :