Steven Novella on the Unreliability of Memory

Skeptic and actual neuroscientist (and target of the previously mentioned intellectual mancrush) Steven Novella has an interesting writeup of some recent research demonstrating the frailty of human memory: More Evidence Our Memory Stinks.

Our memories are not an accurate recording of the past. They are constructed from imperfect perception filtered through our beliefs and biases, and then over time they morph and merge. Our memories serve more to support our beliefs rather than inform them.

35 Responses to “Steven Novella on the Unreliability of Memory”

  1. shcb Says:

    I suppose that is why it is so important to keep accurate documentation when you are doing scientific studies.

  2. Smith Says:

    I do enjoy a nice stretch.

  3. shcb Says:

    Nolan Ryan style

  4. Smith Says:

    Still waiting to throw that first strike, I see.

  5. shcb Says:

    You mean I’m not supposed to be aiming at the batter?

  6. shcb Says:

    Well, I guess we have to add the White House to the list of Global Warming “deniers” the new name is Global Climate Disruption, where is George Carlin when you need someone to count syllables. It seems the green house gasses (gonna have to change that too) might cause warming, they might cause cooling, rain, drought, the seas might rise and fall, good lord it is a calamity. The only thing for certain is man is at fault and government’s higher taxes are the only cure.

  7. knarlyknight Says:

    Politicians need new terms every few years, that doesn’t change the science.

    Why was the term changed, did we have a few weeks of cold weather? Nope:

    •The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for August 2010 was the third warmest on record at 16.2°C (61.2°F), which is 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average of 15.6°C (60.1°F). August 1998 is the warmest August on record and 2009 is the second warmest.

    The Northern Hemisphere as a whole experienced its warmest August on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2003. Separately, the Northern Hemisphere land surface temperature was the warmest on record, while the ocean temperature was the fourth warmest on record.

  8. Smith Says:

    You mean increased global temperatures might cause things to happen other than my ice cream melting faster? Hurf Durf.

  9. shcb Says:

    I know, I was just busting on you a little, but this is the problem when you over hype something. When the problem is small but your ambitions are large, eventually the reality of the situation cathces up with you and have to start backtracking. The worst part is that the real problem usually gets left in the dust.

  10. NorthernLite Says:

    I actually like the new term, it better reflects what’s actaully happening.

  11. shcb Says:

    Then why didn’t they use it to begin with? For the last ten years all we’ve heard is the earth is getting warmer, the earth is getting warmer. now, well it might get warmer, it might get cooler, which of course is true, it’s in a normal cycle. Man plays a part in that but only a part. The problem is the science was performed badly, then it was coopted by people that had agendas, and then public policy was enacted before the science was complete.

    If the science had been done properly and completely, and they had found out now that they were wrong, they would have more credibility in saying the earth was warming but now is cooling but the shifts are wildly out of sync with normal trends, which they aren’t, but they would have had more credibility. But, they didn’t do that so now they are just starting to look foolish. Did you hear we sent tens of billions to Brazil so they can expand thier drilling for evil oil? Your Obama tax dollars at work.

  12. Smith Says:

    Discussing climate with shcb is like discussing calculus with an average five year old. He doesn’t understand it, and he probably never will.

  13. knarlyknight Says:

    Smith, you forgot to add a Hurf Durf comment. Come on man, try to keep up.

  14. shcb Says:

    we’re talking about politics, not climate change, that I do understand

  15. Smith Says:

    You’re talking politics, while everyone else is talking science. Perhaps this is because scientific facts don’t fit well with your worldview. At least you finally admit that you are the one who is desperately trying to politicize this issue.

  16. shcb Says:

    No, that’s not me saying that, it is JBC, NL, AlGore et al they have said the science is in, done, finished, the earth is round, it goes around the sun, man is causing the earth to heat, they are all proven facts, no more debate need be. Well except for the White House, they don’t think it is warming any more, just changing. Since there is no more reason to do research (its all been done), there is no more reason to discuss the science so all that is left is the politics.

  17. NorthernLite Says:

    It’s a scientific fact that increased CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat, causing our planet to warm. That is a scientific fact.

    Also another scientific fact – we just had our warmest summer ever on record.

    Again… if you, Rush and Sarah can show me some scientific evidence that this is just a “natural thing” come on with it.

  18. Smith Says:

    Good luck with that NL. He’d rather just actively attempt to politicize the discussion so he can then turn around and complain that the discussion has become too politicized. He has no facts. He never does.

  19. shcb Says:


    Point 1) yes it does, but how much does man contribute? (science) what can be done (science, politics) what should be done (politics)

    Point 2) yes, but only by a small fraction, barely over 1998, the last ten years have been mostly level, with a high spike in 98, a low spike in the last couple years, and another spike this year, all normal in el/la nina events, but look at the actual data, it has been mostly flat. UAH looked at a number of different climatic lines over the last few decades and they are all fairly normal, with temps rising. We are coming out of a cooling period so that is to be expected.

    “Record” only goes back to a little past the low point of the current cycle, so yes we are going to get warmer, until we get cooler. The “on record” is a little of a cheap trick.

    All you have to do is look at the graphs and see it is primarily a natural thing, what study could I dig up that would convince you? None, It’s all there, you just have to look at it yourself. Co2 levels have continued to rise and temps have leveled off, they probably leveled off slightly higher if we didn’t have an increase in co2, but the co2 is just one small part of warming and cooling.

    But even if you are right, even if the science is “in” (I was taught science is never complete) it still becomes a political question of what to do about it, I think there is enough science to not wreck ecconomies over the tiny impact it will make to the natural cycle, you don’t. I think the science in this small area of science has been corrupted by money, power, greed, and politics, you don’t. In any case the debate is more political than scientific at this point.

  20. NorthernLite Says:

    You’re the one that is listening to talking heads and politicians, I’m listening to scientists. It’s only political because you want it to be. For 95% of the world it’s not. We understand basic science. Only in the good old USofA where big oil has spent tonnes of money confusing you are there people that are, well, confused.

    Looks like its working.

    You have to remember you’re living in a place where almost a third of your population thinks your president was born in another country because a few people spent a little bit of money spreading that message. Many people still believe that Iraq was responsible for 9/11 because they were told that over and over again, even though there was never any evidence to support it.

    See what I’m getting at?

  21. shcb Says:

    For 100% of the world it is political, maybe minus the mud hut countries, whether the science is good or bad, no matter what the issue is, policy has to decide how to deal with the situation. Don’t think science isn’t bought and paid for either. There is an old joke in the scientific communitee, if you want money to study some tree frog or the like, good luck. But if you want to study the effects of Global Warming, er, Global Disruption on that tree frog, you can get all the funding you want. So people learn to play the game, they do the study they wanted to do, toss in a few pages about global warming and there is another paper devoted to global warming/disruption.

    We understand basic science in this country too, we also understand politics and ecconomics, and we understand there is balance that has to be struck. Not everyone understands that, but many do.

  22. NorthernLite Says:

    Yeah, I remember that dumb fuck George W. Bush saying that America couldn’t take action on climate change because “it would destroy America’s economy.”

    Thank gawd that didn’t happend eh! :P

  23. shcb Says:

    Yeah, it is a luxury for a good ecconomy, which we didn’t have then and don’t have now.

  24. enkidu Says:

    Good luck w that NL. As usual wwnj has reality bassackwards. Climate Change or Climate Disruption, people haven’t been calling it Global Warming for years. Parts of the globe will get hotter, while other parts will become cooler. The usual weather patterns will not be ‘usual’ any more… for example if the Atlantic Current slows down, England may experience significant cooling.

    But the wwnj believes the science isn’t in (no matter how much science says this is real). Perhaps the science isn’t ‘in’ on the complete theory of gravity, but it still works. Mankind is remaking the planet with our activities and there are basically two groups on the issue: the group that says we’re doing perfectly fine! drill baby drill! and then you have the other group that says well it sure looks like we are influencing the climate in some undesirable ways, what can we do about that?

    And really, bringing up your classic mud hut countries quote? Really? Why not just use the term you are thinking about: π!@@#& countries. Just get it off your chest. Scream it at your son-in-law, mutter it on the 57 crosstown bus, growl it every time you see a ding librl on the teevee. Just stop voting for right wing idiots, sit down for a few cycles, shut the f up and let the adults fix what you nutjobs are so earnestly breaking.

    America can either cede the new green energy future to the Chinese, the Germans and the rest of the planet or we can lead the charge to stop using fossil fuels so much (which has a side benefit of defusing the wealth going to oil producing countries that hate western civilization).

    shorter wwnj: hurf durf sociamalism!

  25. Smith Says:

    Burying your head in the sand is not a good solution, even if Limbaugh says otherwise.

  26. shcb Says:

    Neither is crying the sky is falling.

  27. shcb Says:

    Boy, if you guys could just get rid of that pesky Rush Limbaugh, even conservatives like me that haven’t listend to him much in the last few years would just walk around in a haze, unable to think, unable to function in polite society. So much wailing and knashing of teeth without Rush to tell us what to think.

  28. enkidu Says:

    If only right wingers could pull their head from Limbaugh’s ass.

    Seriously, this fat blob of protoplasm addresses GOPr events all year round, but you are whining about how we abhor a hate radio giant (in girth if not in intellect) that is part of the right wing lamestream media? Weren’t you just posting about how great fauxnewts was due to their awesome ratings or something?

    Funny how Buckley’s rule has been replaced by limpbaugh’s rule. Just vote for the most conservative candidate, even if putting the most extreme whackjobs and criminals (cough I’m looking at you ODonnell with your spending campaign money on rent, gas and bowling – google it) on the ballot means they are sure to lose.

    Please someone, anyone please point out an issue of national or global import that wwnj here is, well, right? I don’t mean things like beer taste good or sky is blue, but rather that wwnj (and by extension the rest of the wack 20%ers) are actually right as in correct. On any issue confronting humanity in the early 21st C. I am sure there must be some overlap between reality and republicanism/conservawhackdoodlism/teabagger world views. I just can’t see it. I’d like to. Please help if you can think of anything or point to a post where reality and wwnj overlap, even if only a little.


  29. shcb Says:

    You’re just not looking very hard.

  30. shcb Says:

    Tell you what, I’ll give you two, cap and trade and card check, even Democrats have distanced themselves.

  31. enkidu Says:

    I’m not asking you. You think you are right on everything. Always.
    right wing, yes. Correct… hmmmm, no.

  32. Smith Says:

    “Tell you what, I’ll give you two, cap and trade and card check, even Democrats have distanced themselves.”

    I’m failing to see how the lack of a spine on the Democrats’ part is proof that you are correct. The Democrats are useless and the Republicans are actively destructive.

  33. enkidu Says:

    I’ll pick ‘do no harm’ over ‘kill em all!’

  34. shcb Says:

    I thought I would get some variation of that response :)

  35. shcb Says:

    Enky, Depends on what you are harming, saving the baby might harm the mother, harming the baby might save the mother. Will mearly harming one save the other? How much harm, how long lasting that harm?

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