Why our memory fails us analysis

FIRST NAMES? Chabris and Simons have a very simple straight forward argument; our memories are not reliable and often fail us. Throughout their article they prove this point using multiple approaches and they do this in a very interesting way. This article is written in a way where there is a strong logos appeal but pathos is built right into the facts themselves. This approach gives the reader some hard evidence to stand on but at the same time tugs at their emotions.

They play on our emotions by using facts and case studies; right off the batTOO INFORMAL in the first paragraph we see an example of a failed memory on the part of Neil Tyson in which both Bush and 9/11 are mentioned. There is record that Dr. Tyson made a false statement, that’s a fact. “One of his staple stories hinges on a line from President George W. Bush’s speech to Congress after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.” But with just this one line, which precedes those facts, Chabris and Simons already have a hold of the hearts of millions of Americans before they even read past the second sentence of the article. Just the mention of Bush (a very controversial politician) and 9/11 (one of the worst tragedies in American history) draws on the reader’s emotions and keeps them reading. The combination of pathos and logos continues throughout the entirety of the article with the mention of Bush and 9/11 time and time again. Another way Chabris and Simons achieved their pathos stuffed logos is by using facts involving big names, prime example is when they mention the failure of memory that Hillary Clinton encountered. They were indeed facts but because it was such a big name the reader feels almost relieved and surprised to know that a memory blunder can happen to even someone of her caliber. The idea, which is very hard for us to grasp, that our memory isn’t always correct seems more believable because of this writing technique. We can even go back to the beginning of the article and see this technique used again when we learn of astrophysicist Dr. Tyson’s blunder regarding the Bush speech. In my opinion, although the article is full of facts and case studies, I find the tone to be informal. Almost as if the writers are saying “Look even the likes of politicians and astrophysicist can’t trust their memories, so you shouldn’t either” That simple thought comes together perfectly and along with the facts and case studies sprinkled in I feel that their message was heard loud and clear. When it comes to the top 3 comments at least on the readers pick side the arguments mainly use the logos approach as the commenters try and get their point across using pure facts such as links to quotes or just logical reasoning “Do I really think somebody let the air out of my tires, or overcooked my burger just to annoy me?” as stated by one commenter. When looking at the NYT picks there is a more serious tone still the same logic driven arguments but there’s more of a debate of whether the initial argument is even true. I absolutely think the times ranking system is effective as it gives the reader a broad scope of opinions; comment sections online are a feeding frenzy of people out to create and use alternative facts, it’s safe but sad to say that it is needed otherwise that echo chamber just gets nosier and nosier



Individual Assignment 1

Drawing on my understanding of the rhetorical triangle, I believe that Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons presented an argument that appealed to pathos in their article “Why Our Memory Fails Us”. HOW? WHY?


WHO? begin with talking about Dr. Tyson; his profession and staple story on former president George W. Bush. They then develop their ideas through narration; Elaborating on a memory failure that Dr. Tyson had about what Bush had said post the 9/11 attacks and in his 2003 tribute to the astronauts lost in the Columbia space shuttle explosion.

Chabris and Simons go on to explain about THE memory failures that both Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton themselves had experienced. They explain that “politicians are often caught misremembering their past, in part because their lives are so well documented”. They build their case by depicting and explaining circumstances in which indeed memory failed the politicians of our country, who at the end of the day are only human. They “support” the mis-remembrances of the politicians with relating data stating that greater confidence in memory is associated with greater accuracy while also high confidence in false memories is associated with low accuracy. The correlation is that in both cases, whether the person is remembering correctly or not, there is a level of high confidence.

WHAT IS THE TOPIC SENTENCE? So the problem of relying on one’s memory is that it fails us no matter how sure of our memory we are and we should therefore “ be more understanding of mistakes by others, and credit them when they admit they were wrong” (Chabris & Simons). I believe Chabris and Simons used a dignified and frank tone throughout their article and by portraying the mistakes of politicians to the reader they have appealed to our emotions of likeness with people of importance.


On the other hand, I believe the top three comments of the readers’ pick were found to be convincing by so many other readers because they appealed to both ethos and logos. The comment by Keith Dow was basically all quotes and a link to “verifiable quotes from Bush”. His comment appeals to ethos because with the link he establishes credibility. Jacob Sommer however appeals to logos with a comment that was but a thought. No quotes, no data or other overload of information.


The NYT picks differ from the readers’ choices in being in that valley of open mindedness where it is easy to listen to the “ clearer, brighter, rarer voices” as Heffernan said. And so yes I think the Times approach to ranking comments is effective because it groups comments alike. I also think this approach is needed because it allows for an easy find and read of different types of comments depending on preference. And so even though it supports the echo-chamber effect in a way, I think it does away with the craziness of a storm of comments and contributes to a genuine dialogue.

Rhetorical Analysis #1

THESIS STATEMENT: In the article “Why our memory fails us” Daniel J. Simmons and Christopher F. Chabris use logos to get there point across. All three rhetorical appeals are used but Logos is the main appeal because they use many facts, charts, and experiments to show us that our memory isn’t always telling the truth, and hence can drastically change over time.

Throughout this article all three rhetorical appeals are used. The main goal for this article “Why our memory fails us” is to show us that our memory isn’t always right and it tailors to the story we want to hear, and because of that the authors conclude that our recollection of memories are not reliable. Right of the bat Neil Degrasse Tyson who is an astrophysicist who is the last person you would think with have trouble recollecting his memory misquoted then President of the United States George W. Bush which made the president seem heavily prejudiced towards the Islamic faith. The authors agree that with scientific evidence backing up there claims they can all agree that memory does change over time, but the person themselves wouldn’t fact check there memory due to supreme confidence.

To start off, Logo’sSPELLING? was the most vibrantWRONG PHRASE and easy to spot rhetorical appeal in this article because these authors who wrote this article directly found scientific evidence from well-known psychologists like Andrew Desoto, and Henry L. Roediger to back up there claims through there evidence. The way the authors communicated the evidence was very easy to understand and made you fully understand  why memory deteriorates over time. Next the appeal of Ethos really stuck out to me because just by glancing at the page itself you see that it comes from a very reputable source which is the New York times, then as you glance down to the people who wrote this magnificent article you see that they are psychology professors which really make you believe what they are saying. The main goal here is to make the readers believe that whatever is said is valid because it comes from years of research and studying this specific topic. The last and probably the least used appeal is pathos. But if you look hard enough you could definitely see that these authors try to show us that even an astrophysicist such as Tyson can have biased memories which tells us that it can happen to anybody. The author even tells us how certain politicians like a Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush were also victims to faulty memory. It all builds up to an old saying that states all humans are susceptible to making mistakes and its something we can’t hide from. The main takeaway from pathos is that the mistakes that are made can be looked over if you can correct them.

The top three readers pick starts off with FIRST NAME Tyson. Tyson taps into all rhetorical appeals. Since he has a plethora amount off knowledge about the galaxies and heavens he can use logos, then he uses ethos because he was brought up in the article and lastly he fell into pathos because he acquired a lot of sympathy from the readers because the authors came down pretty hard on him calling him a liar and someone who fluffs up there story. Mr. Dow on the other hand attacks the authors assumption of President Bush being a very wise and knowledgeable person by providing direct quotes from the former president which just didn’t add up. The third comment was posted by Mr. Sommers, his comment is a pleasant blend WRONG PHRASE – YOU’RE NOT DISCUSSING COFFEE of relevancy and emotion. Mr. Sommers shows us that there are people with exceptional memories but people who do have faulty memories should not be penalized but much rather forgiven for there mistake and move on. Now when you compare them to the NYT comments you see a huge difference because the NYT comments are heavily relying reliant on logos and in turn starts new topics to talk about and branch out on, instead of dwelling on what the article was trying to show us.


“Why Our Memory Fails Us” Rhetorical Analysis



In the New York Times article “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, written by Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons.FRAGMENT Both writers analyze the science of memory distortion, and how this can affect the way we recall or own memories. The writer’s purpose is to use logical reasoning through the evidence of statistical facts and case studies. To have readers gain a better understanding of how memory distortion can cause our recollection of facts to be inaccurate.

             Chabris and Daniel begin their argument by acknowledging the time astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, experienced memory distortion. When he claimed a prejudice quote was made by President Bush on 9/11. According to Dr. Tyson, the quote was meant to distinguish Christian Americans from Muslims. He claimed President Bush said “Our God is the God who named the stars.” After critics investigated Dr. Tyson’s claim, they found no evidence of the president making that statement. Causing the credibility of Dr. Tyson to be questioned by many individuals. Both Chabris and Davis use this example to build their argument.


            The writers are using logical reasoning to the readers, in order to build their case on the problems of relying on one’s memory. Statistical facts and case studies are used to further examine ways in which memory distortion can cloud the way we retrieve facts. An example of this was the case study done by psychologists, Henry Roediger and Andrew DeSoto. The results of this case study showed that when people were highly confident in their memories, they were able to recall more facts accurately. However, the study also showed that even if individuals had a high confidence in their memories. There still seemed to be a lower accuracy in facts.


            Chabris and Daniel avoid playing on the emotions of the audience to drive their argument. GOOD. Instead they rely on expert testimony and reliable sources to make their argument more credible. A testimony was given by psychologist Frederic Charles, who conducted experiments to test a theory. The theory was that the content of memories can change over time. His experiments which he applied to the telephone game, revealed the more the message traveled from one person to another. The message became distorted and sometimes key elements of the message would remain or disappear.


            The writers create a tactful tone when building their case on memory distortion. They are careful with the order in which their arguments are presented. Making sure they include logical reasoning, case studies and facts to follow their claims. Through the use of this tactful tone a case is made that those who experience memory distortion, aren’t intentionally giving falsified facts. So they suggest to readers to be understanding to those mistakes and positively acknowledge them for correcting their mistakes. However, that does not mean we should defend false memory when there is evidence to contradict it.


            The top three comments in the reader’s picks section, were found to be the most convincing by readers. The first two commenters appealed to the logical reasoning of the readers. The first comment was given by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who happens to be one of the subjects in the article. In his comment he uses logical reasoning to let the readers know that in fact he did not misquote the president’s statement. Instead he mistakenly confused the date he said it. Claiming the statement appears in his Columbia Shuttle disaster speech a few months after 9/11. For this mistake Tyson formally apologizes to the president. The second comment was done by Keith Dow. In his comment he claims that Chabris and Simon’s statement about President Bush being intelligent is false. He uses emotional appeal and logical reasoning by providing numerous quotes made by the president. To support his claim and make his argument more effective.


            The third commenter relied on appealing to the feeling and emotions of the audience. Jacob Sommer’s appeals to those readers who have made inaccurate statements because of memory distortion. He claims that it is okay for individuals to make honest mistakes, without their being harmful intent behind it. The NYT picks are different from the reader’s picks, as the top three comments take on a more biased tone and rely on their emotions. The Times approach to ranking comments is very effective and much needed. It prevents the comments section from becoming a “flame war” of individuals bashing each other and their opinions. Most importantly, it leaves room for people who actually do want to address the issues. Or engage in a productive conversation with the writer.


Think before you speak.

Memory is a tool you can use but you can sometimes make mistakes, no matter who you make sure you have the sources to prove your points or make sure you are ready to hold yourself accountable.


In the article written by Chabris and Simons, they are stating how one’s memory can often fail us. They go and give an example of Neil Degrasse Tyson once quoted ex-president Bush on a matter during 9/11. During this article, they use logos to present their argument, they state all the facts that support their argument. For example, they say how no one could ever find the specific quote that Mr. Tyson was talking about, nowhere was that quote found and Mr. Tyson did react in a very defensive matter, to begin with. I don’t think that was the only point they were trying to prove, I think they were trying to explain that if he can misremember a certain event how can a journalist, people with higher position do the same, for bigger problems. They do state that if Mr. Tyson can own up to his mistakes why can’t bigger media outlets do the same when they clearly give out false memories? This is an argument that seems to hit a bigger issue. This article uses many forms of rhetorical forms, such as logos when they start presenting the evidence that even Mr. Tyson could be incorrect in such a very important matter, he is a very respected individual in the science space and he did make a mistake but he did accept it and stated that he was wrong. He even commented on the article and posted links to his explanation and going further in on what could have happened. He gives a very scientific explanation to a very common matter. The whole tone of his article is very factual yet also very fair in explaining it. He is very direct in his responses and also he is not being rude while stating facts, his overall tone was factual but not rude. I don’t believe that Chabris or Simons were playing with emotions in the article, I do believe that It was more factual in the sense that they looked for the evidence on what Mr. Neyo presented in his speech on multiple. I think they just wanted to hold him accountable for such a strong and bold thing to say about Mr. Bush. The comments on the article include Mr. Neyos linking both facebook post explaining on the matter. The other two were both very different in the way that they spoke; he used logos to show proof that Mr. Bush is not intelligent, he posted quotes on the things that he has spoken in the past, most of them are cringeworthily while some just make you question how he even became president. In the other comment, Mr. Sommer uses the ethical appeal to not help but be more understanding too when people make mistakes and states that if they are willing to admit to their faults and try to correct it we should let them slide and not be so harsh on a human. I believe that the New York Times approach to the comment ranking is very effective, it does give you a different perspective from the author that has written the article.

I Know that I Know, What I know.

“Our biases can blind us”. There are always two sides to one story which means that, two people can remember the same event differently. [This is commentary. In the thesis statement, identify the elements of the rhetorical triangle that the authors used and detail below.]

[Analyze rather than express personal opinion. How do the authors use the rhetorical triangle to convince the reader and how do they support their arguments?] Chabris and Simons shared this truth as to why our memory fails us. I am a conservative and; my aunt is a progressive. We both have different points of view on foreign policy and governmental relations which allows us to operate under distinct belief systems. [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The authors used ethos to appeal to our emotions [ethos is based on credibility and trust, and pathos is based on emotions] and logos to appeal to our reasoning. The question that individuals need to ask themselves is “How do they (you) respond when their (your) memory is challenged? One can either act emotionally or logically, which is the point that Chabris and Simons wants us readers to understand.

Confidence is trusting in one’s memory and experience to exert a specific action or to communicate a specific statement. According to Chabris, misattributing a quote leads to memory failure which results from having overconfidence in one’s self. The way we respond when our memory is challenged appeals to our logical reasoning. Both contributors primarily use ethos and logos to manipulate their readers by playing with their emotions and reinforcing their statements by relying on facts and studies. They know how to speak directly to a reader’s mind and heart.

Scientists know the importance of using observation to gain information about the environment. “The science of memory distortion has become rigorous and reliable enough to help guide public policy. It should also guide our personal attitudes and actions.” (Simons, 4) Chabris and Simons effectively employed rhetoric to attract their readers by stating relevant information that would encourage responsiveness from the audience.

[Analyze rather than express personal opinion.] When I am having a conversation with a friend, I tend to restate the question I asked in the beginning because; I am forgetful. I can blame my reiteration on being absent minded or I can come to the realization that, I have hundreds of thoughts running through my head that are more important than the words coming out of my mouth which cause me to ask questions. Peter, from Ottawa, Ca., used an anecdote (logos) to address the memory problem. I agree that, we need to understand and accept our challenges to communicate and behave better with others. I need to learn how to be present in the moment and how to block out distractions that hinder me from having a constructive conversation with someone.

The times approach is effective because, they chose to highlight the top three comments which focus on engaging readers intellectually. The readers chose comments that focus on the emotions of an individual [use of pathos] by prioritizing a person’s feelings.

[Analyze rather than express personal opinion.] Inference is the reader’s ability to gather evidence that will be used as supporting details for the central idea of a passage. A commentator spoke about the misappropriation of words being a mental laziness issue rather than a memory issue. People lose sight on the end zone because their focus is on the movement that is happening on the sidelines. There will always be room for fallacy. The key is to focus on crossing the finish line instead of everything that hinders an individual from running the race.

Blog Post #1 — Murakhovsky, Alexandra

Our preconceived memories may sometimes be molded by past capabilities of a certain person or experience was. [This is a summary. Identify which elements of the rhetorical triangle the authors use and detail below.]

[Analyze rather than summarize. How do the authors use the rhetorical triangle to convince the reader and how do they support their arguments?] Journalists, Chabris and Simons, described earnestly to their readers that our memories may not be what we think they are, and that even a highly educated astrophysicist may slip up in the memory department every now and again. Playing to the rational appeal [What did the authors use in their appeal to logos?] of their audience, Chabris and Simons described a time when Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson falsely remembered a speech that former President Bush had given after the 9/11 terrorists attacks, implying that Mr. Bush was prejudice against Islam and wasn’t accurately remembering scientific facts when it came to astronomy. Instead, these two inferences were from two very separate occasions, as well as falsely quoted from the speeches themselves. To rely solely on ones memory instead of checking the facts is dangerous, especially as a public figure like Dr. Tyson.

[Analyze rather than summarize.] For most public figures, the simplest way to avoid anymore backlash and scrutiny is to apologize and eventually move on from the mistake, something that Dr. Tyson did. The bigger picture from his memory lapse was that Dr. Tyson’s credibility as a scientist and public advocate was called into question. This mistake was a huge blow in the science community and for people who come to Dr. Tyson as a reliable source of information from his memory.

[How do the commenters use the rhetorical triangle to make their points?] Unfortunately for a lot of individuals, we tend to associate what we think of a person directly to what we may or may not remember them saying. As one top commenter in the Readers’ Picks section pointed out (Keith Dow), Mr. Bush hasn’t always brought his point across eloquently. From that simple association of linking goofy slip-ups said by the former President of the United States, it’s clear to why Dr. Tyson automatically retrieved a false memory of Mr. Bush failing to quote an accurate astronomy fact.

As I reviewed the comments, I read that many readers did have a strong emotional pull [use of pathos] to the article, contrary to where I found the writing informative and interesting with the provided facts. The authors were able to pull up direct quotes from where Dr. Tyson failed to do so, as well as recorded years and events. The article was precise to what the journalists were attempting to convey [They are psychology professors, not journalists.], even bringing up another example of a memory lapse, or just a lie that may have stretched much further from the truth, in Hillary Clinton’s situation.

What I found most interesting in the top three picks in the Readers’ Picks section was that the top two provided links, facts and quotes and the other pick was an honest opinion as he was able to relate to the situation instead of claiming that our memory does not ever fail us. I related most closely to the NYT top pick [Analyze rather than express personal opinion.] comment by Peter C. about how our memory can convince us into thinking something completely different than what we’re actually witnessing right in front of our very eyes, like watching a movie but our memory convincing us it’s the wrong order. Chabris and Simons so effortlessly explained what many people irrationally overreact to, “Ordinary memory failures say nothing about a person’s honesty of competence. But how we respond to these events can be telling.”