Memory Myths Abound: Learn the Truth

Memory Myth: Doing puzzles will improve your everyday memory.

Truth: Of the memory myths, the most common is probably the belief that working on puzzles will help you retain more general information. Doing sudoku will make you better at sudoku, and completing crossword puzzles will make you more proficient at completing crossword puzzles. However, 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.  

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

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

Memory 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. For the shakedown on more memory myths, I highly recommend Joshua Foer’s blockbuster book, Moonwalking with Einstein, which 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 use our senses and cause an emotional reaction.

Memory 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 said to be “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. 

Memory 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.