I’m always amazed with the human brain. A few years ago I wrote a column looking at how you can read mixed up words so long as the first and last letters are correct: so, it wluod look sethiomng lkie tihs and the bairn unscemralbs it. The brain will also replace constant numbers that are standing in place of letters: 5o, 5om3th1ng 71ke th1s c4n st177 b3 r34d.
Memories have come up recently, which is being discussed on the internet. For example, do you remember the popular children’s book with a mother bear, father bear, brother bear, and sister bear? Now, is it the Berenstein Bears or the Berenstain Bears? Personally, I was quite surprised that years later when I was shown the spelling was Berenstain Bears, that I vehemently disagreed. It had to have been Berenstein Bears, because that’s how I remember it. Thinking about it more I realized that although it may have been Berenstain Bears, we pronounced it “Ber-en-stEEn,” which makes more sense in English – if anything can make sense in English – that its spelling would be Berenstein.
Apparently I’m not the only one who was confused by the revelation… Berenstain, honestly just looks wrong to me. But, there are a ton of people out there who agree and it’s quite the polarizing topic on the internet actually.
By looking into that, I discovered that people’s minds do this a lot. The brain comes to think something is true and once believed remembers it that way; so, when a group of people said that they remember Nelson Mandela passing away in jail in the 1980s, it’s something true to them. Memories are powerful, but they are also rather fickle in that they may not necessarily be accurate.
My first memory is from standing next to the cupboard in the kitchen on the farm. I’m wearing a white shirt and pink overalls. Did that actually happen? Am I actually remembering that? Or, did I see a photo of myself in that outfit and just imagined myself there, but kept thinking it in my head so it became “real.”
This is why when multiple people see the same event happen in front of them, they recall what happened quite differently than each other. So, the truth typically lies somewhere amongst them. The culprit had short, dark hair; he had short, blonde hair; he was wearing a hat. The truth is likely that the gentleman they all referenced had short hair as the first two mention short hair and the third one mentioned a hat, but not that hair could be seen from under the hat.
It’s why things like “gas lighting” work, the term comes from a 1944 film in which a husband keeps telling his wife that the gas lights aren’t flickering, that it’s all in her head, and although she can see them flickering comes to believe that she’s wrong through the power of persuasion.
When it comes to things like athletics, Olympic athletes even say that if you are able to develop a fully immersed mental image of what you’re working on it’s as good as actually doing it. So, visualizing you doing the action through your own eyes, but also the smells, noises, feelings, etc… that go along with that moment will better prepare you when it comes to the real deal.