6 Memory Myths That Could Be Harming Your Brain Power : Smart Memory Power

6 Memory Myths That Could Be Harming Your Brain Power

memory mythsThere are a number of memory myths that exist which could be harming your personal development. In particular, if you believe these myths, it can prevent you from improving your memory, as you won’t realise what’s possible.

So, read the following myths and see which ones you thoughts were true…

The Memory Myths

1) ‘We Only Use 10% of Our Brain Power’

This might be the most oft-repeated of all the memory myths, so I’ll tackle it head on right here.

It’s known as the 10% myth, but can actually refer to any spurious figure that someone uses to explain how little of our brain we use.

Renowned neurologist Barry Gordon, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, USA has refuted this claim, saying that ‘we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time’.

One theory as to why this particular load of nonsense has gained traction over the years is that people see their own lack of memory as evidence for unused brain capacity.

Other reasons for its continuing use are the references to it in popular culture.

The 2011 movie Limitless (adapted from the book The Dark Fields), was based around the fallacy of the ‘limited brain’.

2) It’s Possible to ‘Lose’ Your Memory

This comes partially from the idea of the memory being a thing, or a specific part of the brain.

The truth is, your memory doesn’t reside in just one place in the brain. It’s created using a number of regions.

I wrote about this in my post on memory loss causes, where I explained that the idea of ‘losing’ your memory wasn’t really possible in a healthy brain. Your memory is something you develop, like any other ability you have.

And that’s the key… Your memory is an ability, just like running or knitting are abilities. Some people are better than others, but virtually everyone is capable of learning and honing those abilities.

3) Your Memory Works Like a Video Camera

No, no and again no.

This is the idea that your brain records the world around it like a video camera, and therefore that you can ‘replay’ memories accurately.

The truth is quite different.

Your memory is formed from a variety of different elements within the brain, including what you see and what you hear. However, it’s also influenced by your feelings and emotions at the time of the event you’re remembering.

As a result, you tend to remember things differently each time, because different elements become important depending on a variety of other factors.

In short, your memory isn’t at all like a digital device. It’s more like an improvisation from a variety of elements which must be connected in the brain each time you re-form (and recall) a memory.

4) Eyewitness Memories are Enough to Convict Someone

On a societal level, this is actually one of the most dangerous potentially dangerous memory myths.

A lot of people think that if one person witnesses a crime, then the evidence that person provides (from memory) should be enough to convict someone.

In stressful situations such as witnessing a crime (or worse, being the victim), your brain reacts and remembers only very specific things. However, even these things can be affected by your stress levels. The truth is very different…

In many cases, the eyewitness is so traumatised that they piece information in their brain together in the wrong way, but then decide that this is the correct order in which the event happened.

Weapon focus‘ is another problem. The presence of a deadly weapon narrows the focus of the witness so much that all other details become blurred in the memory.

Finally, certain practices by police forces can make a witness think that their memory is correct, even when it’s badly wrong. For a case in point, watch this powerful video:

5) There’s a Secret to Having a Good Memory

If you found this site through a Google search, then the chances are you were looking to find out how to improve your memory power.

Just as in so many areas of life, most people are searching for that one secret… The one ‘magic bullet’ that will give them what they want.

And the truth?

It doesn’t exist.

There’s no such thing as one killer secret to having a good memory (particularly with sites like this one available to anyone who cares to look for it).

It’s true that you could consider the information a secret in the sense that you don’t know it yet, but even then, it’s not really a secret.

The fact is, there are lots of ways to improve your memory. You’re better off applying some of the techniques that you’ll find here on this blog, instead of looking for ‘the secret’.

Memory is a combination of many aspects of the brain, so you need to develop them all. You also need to make sure your brain is getting the correct vitamins and minerals, as well as plenty of water.

6) Hypnosis Can Help You to Recall Forgotten Traumatic Memories

Years ago, many people believed that it was possible to recall memories that had been repressed due to their harmful or traumatic nature.

Since 1985, The Council of Scientific Affairs (based in America) has stated that:

…Recollections obtained during hypnosis can involve confabulations and pseudomemories and not only fail to be more accurate, but actually appear to be less reliable than nonhypnotic recall. (Source: National Centre for Biotechnology Information)

This is perhaps one of the most damaging of all the memory myths that exist.

The idea that you can bring back repressed memories has been refuted by a large number of medical authorities, and yet the myth still persists.

In my opinion, this is due to the fact that there are still people out there who claim to be able to ‘give you back your memories’.

Unless you suffer brain damage, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have forgotten the trauma of your past. If you do forget it, then as far as your brain is concerned, there’s nothing to remember (because if you’ve totally forgotten, it’s like it never existed).

To my mind, people who tell you that hypnosis can uncover forgotten traumas should be outlawed, along with those people who claim to be able to talk to the dead or tell you about your past lives. It’s total nonsense with no proof whatsoever.

Incidentally, these kinds of hypnosis sessions have been linked with False Memory Syndrome, where you ‘recall’ memories that didn’t happen. An example can be seen in the video above.

Why These Myths Could Be Harming Your Brain Power

The simple truth is that your life is a result of the way you think.

You may have heard the expression that ‘thoughts become things’. On a scientific basis, this is more accurate than you might imagine.

There have been a huge number of experiments dedicated to the human mind. In particular, many have focused on psychology and the importance of what you tell yourself.

[For an in-depth look at the idea of preconceptions in your mind and the influence they have on your life, I recommend the brilliant book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.]

So, if you tell yourself that there’s a big secret to having a good memory, then you’ll look solely for that. As a result, you’ll miss the real truth and spend your time searching for something that doesn’t exist.

Similarly, if you believe any of the other memory myths, you will limit your memory power because your brain will have a limited view of what’s possible.

So, with the memory myths busted, start to reconsider what you know about the amazing potential of your brain and then start using it!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it on Facebook and Twitter using the buttons on the left or below. Do you know any memory myths that people should know about? Let us know in the comments section below…

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Category: Memory Power Tips

About the Author ()

I'm James Gladwell, chief contributor and editor of SmartMemoryPower.com. I'm fascinated by the human mind and I set this site up in order to help people increase their memory power, while I learned how to improve mine. Feel free to leave a comment on the site and let me know how you think I can make the site better.

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  1. What is causing memory loss? | Myths of mind | 1 November, 2012
  1. Andrew Walsh says:

    Great article! I definitely believed a couple of these brain myths, most likely because they are so pervasive in media and popular culture.

    • James says:

      Exactly right Andrew!

      The majority of the myths that we believe (not just about memory) are usually as a result of the media and then people spreading the word about that falsehood.

      Thanks for commenting, glad you liked the post.


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