“We are all fabulists…”

In FIRST NAMES? Chabris and Simons’ article, “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, they justify how facts can become misconstrued when recalled from memory. Chabris and Simons use case studies and anecdotes with broad to specific arrangement in order to successfully persuade readers into becoming more empathetic when it comes to acknowledging those who handle mistakes, such as a memory failure, with grace.

In “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, the authors put forth the results of case studies that prove the correlation between the incorrect recall of information with false memories. VERY GOOD. Such is evident when mentioning Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett’s … “telephone game” which included “over repeated tellings [of a story that eventually became] distorted, with some elements remaining, others vanishing, and entirely new details appearing.” Chabris and Simon use this case study in order to illustrate how easy it is for memories to morph over time. The authors additionally mention a study “[by] cognitive psychologists Henry L. Roediger III and K. Andrew Desoto [who] tested how well people could recall words from lists they had studied, and how measured they were in their recollections.” The results of this study proved that “higher confidence was associated with lower accuracy.” This case study is exposed with the intention of revealing that although one is confident in their memories, one can also be wrong. The authors use these scientific case studies in pursuance of the idea that everyone is vulnerable to false memories and therefore, readers should not assume content creators are “liars” when they recall incorrect information.

Chabris and Simons further their argument by using anecdotal evidence that is constructed in a broad to specific arrangement. This can be seen when making the broad statement, “Politicians are often caught misremembering their past… because their lives are so well documented.” This broad statement then continues to boil down to an anecdote of Hillary Clinton recalling a false memory from her time in Bosnia “skip[ping] a greeting ceremony and run[ning] from her plane under sniper fire.” The authors lay out a vast generality and continue to narrow it down to a prestigious figure as Hillary Clinton in order to crack down to the bottom line that honorable people are not immune to memory failure and should continue to be respected because of the way that they correct their mistakes.

Although the New York Times top comment picks seemed more intelligible and related to the topic of memory, it was more evident through the readers’ top comments that Chabris and Simons were successful in their persuasion. The top rated readers’ pick comment with “193 recommended”, posted by Tyson himself, proved that the authors were appropriate in commending Tyson as a graceful public figure for his willingness to own up to his mistake of misquoting Bush even in the comments section. However, the second top comment diminished Bush’s credibility by citing unintelligible quotes from Bush and feeding into the negativity that the public associates Bush with from his past presidency. Nonetheless one of the most important comments by Jacob Sommer, although the top third comment, is where true success for this article can be seen due to its benevolence, “I’ve taken the liberty of assuming people make honest mistakes instead of assuming they mean the worst.”

Chabris and Simon’s article ultimately urges its audience to take mistakes with compassion instead of malice in order to make for a more kind society. They urge readers to realize that we all make mistakes and that we “must all get used to it.”



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