Why Our Memory Fails Us Assignment

In Chabris and Simons’ article “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, they use several examples to show readers how our memory can sometimes distort details subconsciously, and present to us examples of known public figures misremembering speeches and quotes, along with supporting scientific evidence to show us exactly how and why this happens. [Specify which elements of the rhetorical triangle they use.]

[Analyze rather than summarize.] One of the very first examples that Chabris and Simons bring up to show distorted memories is astrophysicist Dr. Tyson’s memory of a quote from our former president, George W. Bush [famous people is a use of ethos] after the 9/11 attack on the twin towers. Tyson states that he has explicit memory of the president saying “our god is the god that names the stars.” Later on in the article, we learn that Bush didn’t mention anything about stars in his speech. He did however, mention stars in another speech back in 2003 in which Tyson was also present. Chabris and Simons use this to show how Tyson’s memory of our former presidents speech was misconstructed and intermixed by his own memory, even though he swore he was correct.

That moves them over to swiftly bring our egos into memory certainty. They argue that when our memories are challenged, we become defensive and respond emotionally. This might cause us to further back up the fact that our memory is correct, even if it isn’t. After showing us a clear example of memory failure, they must appeal to our emotions  to how this may affect other people’s lives permanently. Fears of false memories in the courtroom possibly causing false convictions and even life sentences have caused researchers to look more into false memories [use of ethos by appealing to readers’ sense of justice]. So much so that the National Academy of Sciences’ expert panel [another use of ethos because of the respect people have for the academy], which Simons is a part of, released a report with recommended procedures to minimize mistaken identifications and false memories.

After another example, this time using Bush’s misconstructed memory of seeing the plane hit the towers, Chabris and Simons wrap up by stating that although we are all humans and false memories don’t necessarily mean we are dishonest or incompetent, but how we own up to those events “can be telling”. They advise Politicians to admit error and apologize, just as they say Dr. Tyson eventually did,  as these things are inevitable. They also advise the rest of us to be understanding to such mistakes when they do happen, and credit them when they admit wrong doing [use of pathos by asking us to forgive those who make innocent mistakes].

[How do the commenters use the rhetorical triangle to make their points?] The Readers’ Picks starts off with none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson, with two Facebook links with more notes that further discuss the matter. One of the links takes you to an interview, in which he discusses the events of the false quote by Bush. The second is another man, challenging Chabris and Simons’ statements of Bush’s intelligence. The third, Jacob Sommer, simply gives his opinion which for the most part coincides with the article.  [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The NYT picks, however, are more discussion type comments. All from different people, one backing up the fact that false memories are frightening, and others disagreeing that it is not a human memory error, rather a lazy human error. I think the Times made the right choice in not being partial in the comment selection and letting all sides have an opinion in the matter, in a way that was not disrespectful to the authors of the article.


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