Posts Tagged ‘Memory’

Brainwashing and mind control are possible

June 4, 2014

Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist and memory researcher, has documented a disquieting success in implanting false memories by simply suggesting to a subject that he has experienced a fictitious event.

Such pseudo-events, invented by psychologists, may vary from mildly upsetting or comic incidents that, for example, as a child, one was lost in a mall to more serious incidents that one was the victim of a serious animal attack, or a serious assault by another child.

After initial skepticism “I was never lost in a shopping mall”, and then uncertainty, the subject may move to a conviction so profound that he will continue to insist on the truth of the implanted memory, even after the experimenter confesses that it never happened in the first place.

via Oliver Sacks | The New York Review of Books.

It is possible to remember things that never happened.   It is possible for a skilled psychiatric professional to implant false memories in people.

And now research with rats indicates that it is possible to work on the brain so as to delete—and restore—memories by physical means (but so far only in rats).

As an old guy who is starting to suffer from loss of memory, and whose greatest fear is dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, I think research on memory is a good thing, not a bad thing.

But a world in which memory deletion, memory activation and memory falsification were understood is a science-fiction dystopia.  It means that it is technically possible for a future government to exercise totalitarian control over the individual to an extent that Hitler, Stalin and Mao only dreamed of doing.

These far outweigh the possible benefits of these techniques, such as in treating post-traumatic stress syndrome.  And even there, I expect that, just as with psychiatric drugs, many therapists would use memory deletion techniques without fully understanding their limitations and wider effects.

LINKS

How to erase a memory—and restore it: Researchers activate memories in rats in Science Daily.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks in the New York Review of Books.  A report on false memories.

How Memory Speaks by Jerome Groopman in the New York Review of Books.  A review of research on the neurological basis of memory.

Johnny Mnemonic by William Gibson.  Science fiction.

The self-actuating tape recorder of my mind

December 2, 2012
memory

Double click to enlarge.

I’m prone to what I call playing “tapes” in my mind—going over conversations in the past in which I failed to respond to someone who insulted me or insulted someone else or said something vicious or stupid that ought to be contradicted, and editing the “tape” so that I responded the way I would like to have.  Unlike the person described above, I am able (or think I am able) to keep separate what happened and what I would have liked to happen.  But at the same time, it is important to me to turn these tapes off.

  • Going over these conversations does me no good, and it does neither good nor harm to the other party in the conversation.
  • My anger is not really directed at the other person.  It is directed at myself for failing to respond adequately.
  • My failure to respond adequately is at least partly and maybe mainly due to my being preoccupied with myself and not fully engaged with what is going on around me.

I can’t help feeling whatever negative emotion I happen to feel — anger, regret, self-recrimination — but I have a choice as to whether I rationalize, justify and cultivate these feelings, or let them go.  The same is true of positive emotions — love, aesthetic pleasure, mastery.

Since these feelings and thoughts come into my mind seemingly by themselves and not by my decision, then “I” am something different from my feelings and thoughts.  What is that something?

I found the graphic above on Ido Lanuel’s To Be Aware web log.