Never Trust Your Memory or Neil deGrasse Tyson

Our memory may not be as reliable as we thought

[Analyze rather than summarize. State your thesis in the first sentence.] So, what did Chabris and Simons try to tell us in this article? Perhaps that Neil deGrasse Tyson, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton have one thing in common: their memory sucks! Ok, maybe they didn’t exactly tell us that, but these authors provide us evidence as to why we shouldn’t trust our memory so much after all.

The authors claimed that our memory may not be perfect and that more often than not, our memories maybe get distorted especially as we tried to bring them into the present. By opening with such an important figure such the well-recognized scientist, Dr. Tyson, and proving that his memory failed him in such statements, it appeals to the logical reasoning of the reader. In fact, the authors provide a direct link to the video in which Dr. Tyson makes such erroneous statements.

The authors continue this pattern of providing direct links to prove their arguments when they are talking about Bush’s memory fail later in the article. However, the do not provide such link or evidence when they make the arguments of Clinton’s memory fail; although at this point, they have establish some legitimacy on their arguments by providing those links earlier.


Let’s add some science into this..

They continue with their persuasion by providing the scientific explanation behind the failure of memory. They also provide terms and definitions to help on their argument [use of logos]. Although no direct link to any case studies is provided, they do mention the name of the researchers or the labs in which these studies about memory were conducted. At this point, the reader is forced to trust on the author’s legitimacy by the trustworthiness established earlier in the article [use of ethos

By taking the same ethical approach as taken at the beginning, the reader can be persuaded into accepting this scientific information without any questioning. It’s important to note that the authors’ professional titles are presented at the bottom of the article in which they are both labeled as psychologist. With this in mind, one can easily think “well, they’re psychologist, so they must be right in what they’re saying given that this is their expertise” [use of ethos].

But it is that same trap of assumption that can explain the difference between the Readers’ Picks and the NYT Picks.


Assuming is as bad as your memory

The editors at The New York Times are assuming that the audience would preferred such comments. I would like to guess that it is based on market research, but if so, they may be failing at it especially when the Readers’ Picks top comments differed so much from the top three of the NYT Picks.

Having Dr. Tyson as the number one pick for Readers’ Picks isn’t surprising given that he is one of the subjects of the article. Dr Tyson also provided links with more information which corroborate with the initial arguments made by the authors. No wonder it is the number one choice. The other top two comments of the Readers’ Picks have more an emotional appeal on their statement placing them on the very top of over 200 comments.


Let’s close with some comments

[Relate to rhetorical triangle.] An educational and insightful article that challenges our memory as we know it can easily cause commotions among readers. One amazing feature of the web is that readers can respond to information on this virtual world in a matter of seconds. And, even make an attempt to provide their own analysis with some valid arguments.

But just as we question the article and respond to the author by commenting, we must also not forget to question the comments and not fall into the emotional trap that tends to follow that section of an article.

Just as ‘misremembering’ doesn’t make a you a liar, writing a comment doesn’t necessarily make you an expert of the subject.


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