Leader comment: Fake memories can fool us all

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Memory is a strange thing. Sometimes we can’t get an annoying song out of our head even though we’d love to forget it, other times we just cannot recall that vital fact which stays, tantalisingly, at the tip of our tongue.

But still it is a surprise to learn that nearly 40 per cent of us have a “fictional” first memory, claiming to remember things from when we were two or even younger – a feat that is apparently not possible. A photograph or a family story is turned into a memory that seems real, particularly in later life. Our mind is a wonderful thing but there are times when it seems to have a mind of its own.

This is particularly true in stressful situations in which perceptions themselves can be altered in the heat of the moment. And trying to accurately recall what happened weeks or months later – for example, during a trial – can be difficult even for an honest witness.

So, whether serving on a jury or simply in an argument with a friend, we should perhaps try to remember that no-one’s memory is perfect and make some allowance for that.