We Look, But We Don’t See.

In my talks, I am known to bring up the topic of how we look at things but never see them. For e.g. very few of us can remember accurately what the number 6 looks like on our watch or where is the logo placed on its face. This despite having looks at it hundreds of times.

Let us understand this topic a tad better. We just celebrated Deepavali, the festival of lights. And in the context of the proximity to that event (barely a couple of days back) we would surely remember most of what we did and with who.

Do yourself a favour: Take a piece of paper and a pen. (Okay! if you insist you can as well do this on the notepad in your digital device.)

Think back to one of the many days of festivities, choose one. Now choose a moment that is closest (dearest) in your mind. Make a list of all that happened in as much detail as possible: what event happened, with who, where, when, and how. Get into the details as much as you can. and more. Who initiated the idea, who started it, what happened, and how did it go.

Now keep that paper safe (and to yourself), and start speaking to each of the others who were there at that event with you and made it special. Ask them the same questions you asked yourself, and get them talking as detailed as you can. Now compare this to your notes. Are the memories the same? Or does what is remembered change based on who is talking about it, and the perspective with which they see the event? How many cracks develop in your version of what happened? Who is telling the truth or is everybody having their own truth of the event? And this is just an event that occurred a couple of days back.

That we only see what we wish to see is a well-known fact. What is surprising is perhaps not that we remember only that we wish to, but that we remember things in the way we want to. And most of this is in the non-conscious mind, with our beliefs and prejudices ruling the roost in designing our memories.

Chew on this thought, and remember it the next time you have an altercation with somebody about what exactly happened and how. Perhaps, just perhaps, both of you are right – or wrong!


How Real is Your Memory?

  • Your brain is not a video recorder that records events
  • The brain is a vast array of storehouses and interpreting functions
  • It is constantly engaged in storing, re-storing, interpreting, and re-interpreting our memories & beliefs
  • False memories are so common that almost every conversation of any length includes at least one memory that never happened!

Science of Influence – Kevin Hogan