Our Memories May not be as Accurate as We Like to Believe

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Ever had foot-in-mouth disease? I’d wager it happens more often than not.
New research published this week in Psychological Science by cognitive
scientist Andreas Lind and his colleagues at Lund University in Sweden
suggests that speech is not entirely planned.
These scientists were determined to find out what happens when someone
said one word, although actually hearing themselves state another. “If we
use auditory feedback to compare what we say with a well-specified
intention, then any mismatch should be quickly detected,” scientist Lind
said. “But if the feedback is instead a powerful factor in a dynamic,
interpretative process, then the manipulation could go undetected.”
Participants took a Stroop test, an example of this test is when a person is
shown the word ‘yellow’ although it is printed in green. They are then asked
to name the color of the print (in this example, green). During the test,
participants heard their responses through headphones. “The responses
were recorded so that Lind could occasionally play back the wrong word,
giving participants auditory feedback of their own voice saying something
different from what they had just said.”
After participants heard a manipulated word, a question popped up on the
screen asking what they had just said, and were then quizzed after the test
to see whether they had detected the switch. When the voice-activated
software got the timing just right (that the wrong word began within 5–20
milliseconds of the participant starting to speak) the change went
undetected more than 2/3 or approximately 66% of the time.
In 85% of undetected substitutions, the participant accepted that they had
said the wrong word, indicating that speakers listen to their own voices to
help specify the meaning of what they are saying. The remaining 15% didn’t
notice the manipulations, but also did not seem to notice that the word had
changed – scientist Lind is unclear why.
What this means for Brāv? Since our observations can be unreliable, it
stands to wager that many of our interactions and memories of interactions
with others can be just that. Let’s clarify through Brāv.

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