Memory is a key component of our personality. What you have learned from your experiences — good and bad — makes you the person you are.
Sometimes we take memory for granted. Most people are able to learn large amounts of information when they are young. As a baby, we learn to understand and then speak a language. School allows us to learn all about the world around us.
But as we age, sometimes our memories start to fail. We might struggle to come up with a word. Or forget where we put the car keys.
This memory loss progresses even more in some cases, like with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Family members, forced to watch a loved one lose all of their memories, often describe it as losing the individual.
But is it true that it is solely our memories that make us who we are? If someone suffers an injury and loses some memories, do they truly cease to be the person they were before?
If it is true that our memories define us, what are the consequences of that? For example, if someone is able to plant some false memories in someone else, does that constitute a crime?
Studies show that what you remember — or think you remember — can be influenced by others. For example, people who witnessed a crime might be uncertain about some of the details, like what the assailant was wearing. But if even one person reports seeing a red shirt, then eventually everyone might become convinced they saw a red shirt. Does that mean our personalities are not as fixed as we might like to believe?
Does our memory define us?