Ever played the Chinese whisper game where people whisper a message into the ear of the next person in line and by the time the last person speaks it out loud? Well, researchers have found that our memory is a lot like the game! Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. “A memory is not simply an image produced by time travelling back to the original event — it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” said study co-author Donna Bridge of Feinberg School of Medicine, according to a Northwestern statement.
Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time, the Journal of Neuroscience reports. “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval,” added Bridge, who did the research while she was a doctoral student in the lab of Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
The findings have implications for witnesses giving testimony in criminal trials, Bridge said. “Maybe a witness remembers something fairly accurately the first time because his memories aren’t that distorted,” she added. ”After that it keeps going downhill,” Bridge said.