Erika Hayasaki, writing for The Atlantic:
“What did you eat that morning for breakfast?”
“Special K for breakfast. Liverwurst and cheese for lunch. And I remember the song ‘You've Got Personality’ was playing as on the radio as I pulled up for work,” said Healy, one of 50 confirmed people in the United States with Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, an uncanny ability to remember dates and events. “I remember walking in to work, and one of the clients was singing a parody to Jingle Bells, ‘Oh, what fun it is to ride in a beat up Chevrolet.’”
These are the kinds of specific details that writers of memoir, history, and journalism yearn for when combing through memories to tell true stories. But such work has always come with the caveat that human memory is fallible. Now, scientists have an idea of just how unreliable it actually can be. New research released this week has found that even people with phenomenal memory are susceptible to having “false memories,” suggesting that “memory distortions are basic and widespread in humans, and it may be unlikely that anyone is immune,” according to the authors of the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
There are several childhood memories that I have and I've always wondered if I really remember them—or if I've constructed them out of photographs I've seen and basic details that I now know about the situation. Turns out the answer is probably the latter.