Rhetorical Assignment 1. Macielle Betances

Chabris and Simons, “Why Our Memory Fails Us” argues that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson made an erroneous statement against George W. Bush based on a false memory to bring attention to the ignorance towards “scientific awareness.” In addition, is the argument suggesting that the responsibility lies within the public to reassess the impressions accepted based on a false memory recollection, as it would shape individual perceptions.

Chabris and Simon make an argument that Dr. Tyson has used pathos rhetoric to shift the attention of the public to a topic he holds closely. The ignorance – specifically in this case of a world leader– towards scientific awareness. Dr. Tyson’s emotional attachment to his point attempted, appealed only to his love of the sciences. Had Dr. Tyson operated under logos rhetoric he would’ve avoided misquoting President Bush’s address to Congress after the 9/11 attacks because he would have not been relying on the “accuracy of his own memory.” (Chabris, Simons) Although, Dr. Tyson did ultimately retract his statement, on the New York Times article via the comment selected by the editors. Dr. Tyson hyperlinked a Facebook note explaining he did not mean to fib, he was certain he recalled the quote as such. Dr. Tyson notes he wanted to highlight Bush’s “attempt to distinguish ‘we’ from ‘they” regarding Judeo- Christians Americans from influential Muslims, but not before facing ridicule, being deemed a liar and fabulist. (Tyson)

Still a comment made by Magicisnotreal, argues that “the problem is not human memory,” the problem is lacking objectivity and reason. The comment argues that a false recollection of memory would not be a problem if logos and ethos were applied to communication before it is delivered to the masses. Yet, Peter C, the topic [top pick?] pick from the NYT readers operates with the pathos rhetoric accepting that the public will “vehemently deny’ something happening if it is not remembered.  This recognition of behavior further supports Chabris and Simons, warning that one should reassess the impressions accepted based on a memory recollection. Perception is a personal experience; therefore, a group of people may have witnessed the same event. However, their memory of how said event occurred is likely to differ widely. The consensus seems to agree that mistaken recollections of the past may be an innocent mistake that should be considered as human error. Since we do not have full proof memories as mentioned by Jacob Summer [spelling] when referring to Marilu Henner as an “outlier instead of [a] representative,” Summer continues to state if people are willing to admit their mistakes the public should forgive.

The NYT Picks provided an element of solid dialogue and thoughtfulness on the matter of how harshly we criticize others account of significant events. The comments prove that although there was guaranteed backlash based on Dr. Tyson’s misquoted statement there is room for redemption and acceptance of human error. The NYT Picks further prevents the dreaded “Echo Chamber” described in Virginia Heffernan’s ‘Comment is King,” where commentators tend to reiterate any popular thought as a need to belong to a group with the same beliefs. These comments are opposed to sparking new ideals for the readers and journalist alike. This also does away with the “fact-checking” game that comment sections are typically subject to when utilizing the logos rhetoric.

[Great job. Would’ve liked to see your specific analysis on Elizabeth and Keith Dow’s comments]


Faulty Memorization Can be Crucial However It Is Completely Normal

In the article titled “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons start out by using the astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson’s comment on one of President Bush’s speeches in order to explain to us why we shouldn’t always trust our memory. After carefully analyzing Dr. Tyson’s comment as well as the mix-up that might have led him to make his inaccurate comment, the authors claim that we have an “abstract understanding that people can remember the same event differently”. Just like the saying goes, there are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth, Chabris and Simons are arguing that, most of the time, people react emotionally when their memories are challenged which makes it hard for them to admit when they’re wrong. As examples, the authors hinted at some cinematic works such as “Rashomon” and “The affair”. By linking our emotions with our inability to acknowledge our erroneous memories, those references serve as an appeal to Pathos and help us understand that such reaction is normal.

Furthermore,  Chabris and Simons then try to explain that the reason our memory is sometimes faulty is simply because as time passes, it can become distorted without us realizing it and because we don’t realize it, we hang on to them thinking that we are absolutely right, when in fact, we might have forgotten a lot of important details: “The more confident you are in your memory, the more likely you are to be right. But new research reveals important nuances about this link. That is, for false memories, higher confidence was associated with lower accuracy.”

It was also mentioned in the article that these kinds of mistakes can lead to “much bigger problems…” [no need for ellipsis here] After acknowledging the importance of this issue, the authors shine a light on witness testimony and the involvement of the National Academy of sciences. On one hand, the mention of numerous studies done by different psychologists and other professionals effectively reveals the reasoning behind the author’s arguments, thus deepen the appeal to Logos. On the other hand, Daniel Simons’ participation in the panel of the National Academy of Sciences as mentioned in the article enhances not only the author’s integrity but also the article’s credibility which contributes to the appeal to Ethos.

Chabris and Simons finished off by defending Dr. Tyson by embracing the fact that the astrophysicist recognized his mistake. The majority of the most popular comments posted on this article seem to be in line with what the authors were saying. Jacob Sommer, for example, says: “It’s relatively common for people to attribute a negative experience to active malice instead of honest mistake. However, it’s far more often a mistake”. Many have agreed to Sommer’s perspective perhaps because he was recalling a personal experience in his comment just like others did in many other comments. Judging by the disparities between the types of comments found under the “reader’s picks” and “NYT picks”.[Comma instead of a period?] I can tell that the comments approved by the editors are more focused on the matter and more diversified which creates the impression of an open dialogue.




Chabris, Christopher. F. Simons, Daniel J. “Why Our Memory Fails Us”. The New York
Times, 1 Dec. 2014. New York. Web. 28 Aug. 2017.

Sommer, Jacob. Comment on “Why Our Memory Fails Us.” The New York Times, 2       Dec. 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/opinion/why-our-memory-fails-us.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As%2C%7B%221%22%3A%22RI%3A10%22%7D&_r=3





Relying solely on memories for facts can either be a good thing, or a total disaster.

Chabris and Simons article on why our memory fails us is an article that was not hard to read but rather interesting instead [but rather and instead are redundant]. The article makes some very good points on why people in general shouldn’t rely solely on their memory when trying to state facts. Chabris and Simons wrote the article with a good amount of evidence that proves the point they’re trying to get across. The incident with Bush and Hilary were both facts on how our mind can make up a memory that never really happened. Our mind will piece together scenarios that actually happened with ones that are either imagined or happened to someone else. But the simple fact that the scenarios connect, can cause people to actually believe that what happened to someone else, actually happened to them.

The article relies more heavily on facts rather than emotions. Although it is an opinion piece, it is a piece thats [spelling: that’s] backed up by actual facts. Events that happened in real life and were actually documented [fragment]. For anyone questioning whether these events happened or not, they can go to the source and look for them. The tone of the authors’ is more of an informative and neutral tone than anything else. Chabris and Simons used Ethos as their form of persuasion. The article seemed fair and competent in terms of the information given. They’re not saying you cant [spelling] rely on your memory but rather don’t let it be the only source. And if you the person [eliminate “the person] ends up being wrong about something they [agreement: you] believed as face [fact?], simply admit to your mistake and move on [rewrite for clarity]. Don’t make the mistake of going on with what was said when it is clearly not factual.

The top three comments are convincing because they used resources and facts to prove their point. Any argument backed up by evidence is going to be a more powerful one. One of the commenters, Neil Tyson, used Pathos when writing their comment. He had more of a negative view towards the article and had a cynical tone. For example when he stated  “It’s not often somebody’s OpEd begins with your name. Usually means you did something really good or really bad.” That sounded very cynical and sarcastic at the same time. Jacob Sommer on the other hand, had a comment that relied heavily on facts he posted, meaning he used the Logos approach to make his statement. In the end, Chabris and Simons got their point across. Our memory can fail us, and when it does, be forgiving if it was an honest mistake. I think the NY Times approach towards ranking comments is an effective one. It allows the reader to recommend whatever comment they liked. Its [It’s] a voting system which seems fair and reasonable. In the end, Chabris and Simons got their point across [repetitive]. Our memory can fail us, and when it does, be forgiving if it was an honest mistake. And to avoid being put in a situation as such, make sure to have other resources as well.