WI JULY 2016
The Joy of False Memory. This tantalising title
brought twenty ladies to the WIs July meeting. Asked where
a person might vow to tell the complete truth, one supposes
the answer would be in a court of law. But our speaker,
Dr Kate Bellamy, succeeded in convincing us that all is not
as simple as that.
She came to us from Edinburgh Universitys Department of
Cognitive Neuroscience, which specialises in brain diseases
and injuries; and with the treatment of victims of post-traumatic
stress disorders. This problem, often associated with warfare,
is now recognised as requiring specialist medical care but this
has not always been the case.
Hypnotherapy and regression of memory were once regarded as
the best treatment for mental disorder and, as such, were widely
practised in the USA. Patients would relive their
memories, frequently related to violence suffered as a child.
Often these implicated alleged criminals, resulting in the imprisonment
of hundreds of men based on the testimony gained
As time passed such methods were challenged and this prompted
F. C. Bartlett to investigate the processes by which people
recall situations. His book, Remembering, recorded experiments
based on the oral traditions of Native Americans, the first
being a story, The War of the Ghosts. He told this to
a number of people and then asked them to retell it to him individually.
He found that each of them altered slight details which made
for distinct differences, although all asserted they were repeating
the story exactly. (Cf. Chinese Whispers.) Their reconstruction
of the story often reflected their own social background.
In our own time, Prof. Elizabeth Loftus of Edinburgh University
has written Witness for the Defence, showing how our memories
can be faulty but, even if disproved, can last during our lifetime.
Fortunately, developments in forensic science can provide ever-accurate
evidence that helps to counter the inaccurate memories of witnesses
in courts of law.
False memory is part of a childs learning process and
fits into a society where other children have similar experiences.
What we regard as our memories can be comforting
and give a feeling of safety. Our flash-bulb memories
of startling events can be inaccurate but our attention to them
cuts out unnecessary detail and we become convinced that they
So, our brain often prioritise our memories and we find enjoyment
in them even though they are false!
Having no meeting until the Autumn did not mean that activities
were suspended. On August 6, Sue Moon will host a barbecue and,
on August 16, Ann Farrs home will be the venue for a craft
day. October will see a group meeting in Barford (18th ) and
a trip to Waterperry Gardens in Oxfordshire. Meanwhile, we shall
be knitting squares for a blanket for the Calais Jungle
and thinking of ideas for next years WI Resolutions.