Your Memories Are Fake
It sounds like a cheap spy thriller: You discover one day that all your memories are fake and the past you have is very different from the one you remember. Only it’s real and it affects every single one of us, including you.
Scientists have known for a long time that memory is essentially unreliable, but finding out exactly how unreliable is weird to say the least. Remember where you were when, say, 9/11 happened? Remember what you did? Well, now get this: You’re probably wrong. In a famous study, students were asked to write down their experience of the exploding Challenger shuttle immediately after it happened. Three years later, they were asked to write down their memories again and then compare the two. Creepily, the two versions almost never matched. One student even went so far as to claim of his original version, “That’s my handwriting, but that’s not what happened.”
So even the brightest memories you have, the ones that really seared themselves into your brain, probably didn’t happen anything like you remember. But at least we haven’t got to the stage where people are implanting false memories in our heads, right? Sorry, wrong again. In 2002, researchers managed to convince a number of subjects that they had flown in a hot air balloon as children, simply by showing them a doctored photo of the “journey.” The subjects created entire fake memories around these photoshopped images that felt just as vivid as the real thing—which raises the awesome possibility that Chris Nolan never actually made Inception, but simply planted the memory of it in every single head on the planet. Mind = blown.