Figment of Our Memories

The comparison of memory failure when misquoting a speaker is not equal to the inaccurate memory of a witness or victim recounting an emotionally charged situation.

“Why our Memory Fails Us” by FIRST NAMES Chabris and Simons explores the process of “memory failure.” THIS IHS A SUMMARY, NOT A TOPIC SENTENCE. WHAT APPEALS DO THEY MAKE? They compare examples of Neil Degrasse Tyson inaccurately quoting former President George Bush to witnesses recollecting a memory of a crime that has led to false imprisonment, etc. Even though they credit Mr. Tyson with taking responsibility for his mistake, it’s still not completely clear as to how his memory failure of logic and fact can be compared to a witness pathos appeals after going through something traumatic. Ethically, the sole memory of a witness is enough to convict a suspect of a crime but that’s why proof and evidence are used. They build their case by pairing confidence and memory after studying a paper by cognitive psychologists that showed how participants that read words off a list answered both accurately and inaccurately with the same confidence. They go on to support this theory by explaining that even emotionally charged memories that can be distorted are held onto with deep confidence. As authors, they rely on facts and studies but some of their supporting examples, such as “the telephone game” seem to play to more of an emotional appeal to the audience. Most readers will remember playing that as a child and connect to their example of memory failure but a game where people would purposely change the original message is not a credible example. Their tone as authors was assertive and direct.

The top three comments were found to be convincing by others because the first one was written by Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. He has a huge following and his willingness to accept his fault creates likeability for the reader. The second comment is by a reader that connected to the article on a pathos appeal and his disdain for President Bush takes reign. He shares a link to a site about political humor but this article wasn’t about Bush, it was about remembering something differently than how it actually occurred. The final commentator connects on a complete pathos appeal bringing forth a humble and diplomatic view and tone to the topic.

In comparison, the top NYT comment picks vary from the reader’s top choices. The first comment seems to look at the problem of memory as a behavioral flaw and something that humans must be trained out of doing but the next comment serves as the opposite supporting that it is a choice or a factor of “mental laziness.” The last comment that they chose represents the view from an educational standpoint. Automatically, the pathos appeal brings the reader back to a classroom where they sat and had a professor conduct a similar test to show how results vary. The ranking of the comments is effective because as in “Comment is King” by Virginia Heffernan explains, the comment sections of articles will always be flooded by readers who barely even skim the surface of the topic at hand but rather attack maliciously from behind their computer screen. GOOD


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