For many, the subject of memory remains a mystery.
As a writer, I’m particularly interested in memory. I’m working on two psychological thrillers, both dealing with recollections of past events. The second novel contains a number of flashbacks prompted by triggers, such as a particular sound or a certain smell. For a long time, I assumed that the strongest memories are the most accurate, but about a couple of years ago I heard otherwise.
Apparently, memories get muddled. When a person remembers an event from long ago, they’re really remembering a memory of that event. In some instances, people reinvent memories after a particularly traumatic event.. I’ve even heard that criminal lawyers dread dealing with witnesses who claim to have vivid memories of a crime, as so often the opposing lawyer manages to cast doubt on the witness account.
However, I still think the strongest memories are generally the most accurate. Recently, I got to see a class photograph taken at primary school. I hadn’t met any of the pupils or teachers for years and had moved location many times since the taking of the photograph. Children tend to remember grown ups as being “old”. As an adult looking back, I was expecting the teacher and headmaster to look much younger in the school photograph. But they didn’t. They looked exactly how I remembered them from years ago – a couple of rather austere grown ups. The hair, the facial features, the expressions all matched.
So what does this mean for me? It means that I’ll trust my memories and intuitions in future.