Misremembering Memories

Thesis: In FIRST NAMES? Chabris and Simons’ “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, the authors’ arguments are presented through the use of the rhetorical appeals by using memory-error examples of well-known public figures such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and scientific evidence to make the case that memory failure is based on our “faith in the accuracy of [our] own memory.”


The article “Why Our Memory Fails Us” showcases how our memory isn’t always a reliable source as demonstrated through an anecdote in the opening of the article about astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose flawed memories made him misquote President Bush and depicted him in a prejudicial way. Through the use of scientific evidence, the authors argue that memories change over time, but seldom do we check them for accuracy and use overconfidence of memory as a way to justify it.


Ethos is established before the article begins because it’s published in a reliable news source: The New York Times. More so is the occupation of Chabris and Simons as psychology professors, which establishes their expertise on the topic and makes the information they present dependable. Simons is mentioned as being part of the National Academy of Sciences expert panel making him more trustworthy. The readers are now aware that his opinion is based on his research experience on minimizing erroneous memory. The overall formal tone contributes to their professionalism which is also aided by the facts they present from other psychologists.


The appeal of pathos is used towards the end when Tyson’s faulty memory is readdressed and the authors tell the audience that he recognized his quotation errors and apologized. This showed the audience that even the experts get it wrong sometimes. Yes, mistakes happen and we are human, but it’s how we correct these faults that’s integral to our character. Other examples in the article are about how politicians’ memories have betrayed them (George Bush and Hillary Clinton) evoke pathos by the authors assuring the readers that “ordinary memory failures say nothing about a person’s honesty or competence”: no one is safe from false memory.


Logos is demonstrated through their reliance on scientific facts from people in the field of psychology who know about the subject of memory. Cognitive psychologist Henry L. Roediger III and K. Andrew DeSoto and psychologist Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett were mentioned and support the authors’ claims. Also, how they worded the scientific findings in an uncomplicated manner makes it easier for them to persuade and communicate their information to a larger audience.



Of the top three rated readers’ picks, the first chosen was Tyson’s which utilizes all three rhetorical appeals. Ethos since he was already mentioned in the article, pathos to have people sympathize with him for being called a “compulsive liar and a fabricator” and logos because he has vast knowledge about the universe. Keith Dow challenges the authors’ statement about Bush being an intelligent person by providing examples of direct Bush quotes that don’t make sense. The third commenter, Jacob Sommer relies heavily on emotion to drive the conversation. He says that everyone makes mistakes and should not be penalized for them, but rather learn and move on.


The NYT picks section chose people whose viewpoints can start new discussions. They use logos to reason their arguments, be it for or against the topic. Two supported the authors’ claims with examples, while the third disagrees giving his opinion as to why he believes they’re wrong and defends his case. By implementing this ranking system, it cuts out the comments without substance, or superficial comments and opens the floor to intelligent, thought-out conversation.



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