5 Myths About Memory

Myth: Doing puzzles will improve your everyday memory.

Truth: Doing sudoku will make you better at doing sudoku, and completing crossword puzzles will make you more proficient at completing crossword puzzles. These types of activities do not seem to improve overall memory. Even more disappointing, as soon as you stop doing the training, your abilities return to what they were before you started. 

Still, experts point out that engaging the mind with activities such as reading, doing puzzles, or learning a new language can help to reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia.  

Myth: People experiencing the same event will have the same memories. 

Truth: People’s memories are shaped by their prior learning, beliefs, and assumptions. The way that we encode events is unique, and things that transpire later can distort our previously-formed memories. Our minds will fill in the details of events that we have forgotten. In a sense, our memories can be remolded by a number of other influences. These tricks that the mind plays is why the use of eyewitness testimony to decide the fate of the condemned is so terrifying. 

Myth: You either have a good memory, or you don’t – it’s genetic. 

Truth: Memory masters use an entire arsenal of tricks to remember the fantastic amount of information they do, including thousands of hours of practice and broad use of mnemonic devices. Joshua Foer’s blockbuster book, Moonwalking with Einstein, proves that we can transform our memory in a short amount of time by using research-backed tips and tricks. For example, we are most likely to hold onto memories that incorporate our senses and comprise an emotional reaction.

Myth: Hypnotism and therapy help with the recovery of repressed memories of child abuse. 

Truth: In truth, research shows that most child abuse victims do not forget the incidents. Unfortunately, the memories reclaimed during therapy tend to be false. Hypnosis only worsens the problem because although it doesn’t seem to boost the chances of recovering lost memories, it does increase people’s conviction that their false memories are authentic. 

Myth: Dementia can’t be prevented.

Truth: There are some rare types of dementia with a strong genetic component. However, most forms of dementia are mainly the result of lifestyle choices, such as consuming a nutrient-deficient and heavily processed diet, sleeping poorly, not practicing stress reduction techniques, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, and being sedentary.