Mind erases error memory

  •  April 15, 2021


Doesn't that extra piece of pie look like a bad idea? A study by Northwestern and Harvard Universities reveals that memories of things we should not do are shorter. Therefore we repeat the error.

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According to a study conducted in partnership between two American universities, we tend not to register behaviors that we are not proud of.


Researchers call these episodes "unethical amnesia".

To better understand this phenomenon, nine different experiments were conducted, designed to show whether the memories of our own ethical behavior really are less vivid than those of other kinds of activities.

In one experiment, the team took the simplest approach by asking 343 volunteers to write about different things they did, both right and wrong.


In another experiment, 70 students participated in heads or tails games, where rogue tricks led to the greatest financial gain.

Two weeks later, everyone had to answer a questionnaire about what they remembered from the experiments.

Forty-three percent of them reported cheating, but the memories of doing so were much less vivid than the memory of what they had eaten at the previous meal.


In another test, scientists could be sure that the hazy memories of what we did wrong make us go wrong again, in a new opportunity.

We are condescending to our failings, while pointing out the mistakes of others so vehemently.

And we have no problem eating another piece, or piercing another line without realizing it.

The research was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Can Memories be Erased? Neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux on Modifying Memory (April 2021)


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