I Don’t Remember by Wilkins Melian

Thesis: If a memory is recalled with confidence, then it is more likely to be accurate than              [Why the gap?] a memory that has been recalled with doubt.

Psychology professors

They begin by introducing a situation in which Neil deGrasse Tyson ridiculed president Bush on making a statement during a speech after the 9/11 incident. Chabris then goes on to explain that Tyson was not fooled by his scientific knowledge but by his memory of the speech.  Chabris noted that Bush never stated anything similar to the phrase Tyson claimed he clearly remembered and also noted that a similar quote was stated by president Bush in a different speech years afterwards [contradictory statement].  Tyson then became defensive after being attacked for his false memorization.

Chabris and Simons proceeded to describe their points of view and why they think the situation was taken way out of hand.  They used their appeal to ethos to inform readers of their knowledge in psychology to show that confident memorization usually leads to more accuracy.  They showed a study conducted by cognitive psychologists Henry L. Roediger III and K. Andrew DeSoto in which contestants had to remember a set of words from a list and relay it back to the psychologists.  They noted that the answers that came back with the most confidence were more accurate but memories of similar words that were not on the list also came back with high confidence as well. They also explained how our memories are never completely remembered and how we only retain fragments of what has happened and the more our memory of an event changes, the less confident we become. [Remember you have to analyze their rhetoric as opposed to summarizing what you read]

That became relevant to Tyson and he has since apologized and admitted he must have made a mistake.  Chabris and Simon end the article by explaining that he is not the only intellectual that has made an error of this degree.  For example, they explain how president Bush claims to have seen the first airplane hit the North Tower in September although he was just entering a classroom in Florida. Similar events have also happened to Hillary Clinton, adding more evidence to their claim. [Remember you have to analyze their rhetoric as opposed to summarizing what you read]

Furthermore, the comments made in response to the article did not show much empathy for the example used in the article.  There was criticism from people in the Readers’ Choice claiming that the use of president Bush or Hillary Clinton was not a good example of intelligent minds misremembering a memory.  People let their emotions take control of the comments and decide to bash any flaws they notice in the article, with the Bush example being the main one.  The NYT Picks, on the other hand, chooses more structured comments that focuses on the main idea of the article over the topics discussed in the Readers’ Choice section.


Karla E. Reyes

Thesis Statement: Chabris and Simons use all three points of the rhetorical triangle in a convincing way to show readers the problems and dangers created when people rely solely and heavily on their own memory.

Christopher Chabris is a research psychologist, [no comma] while Daniel Simons is an experimental psychologist and a cognitive scientist. They are prominent figures in their fields, therefore their ethos is high since they’re both credible and trustworthy experts in how the brain works in relation to memory. Chabris and Simons rely on several studies to show the significant problems caused with relying on one’s own memory, such as a paper by Roediger and DeSoto that showed that, for false memories, high confidence is associated with lower accuracy, or a decision by the National Academy of Science to minimize false memory affecting witness recollections in court cases (text). [Run-on sentence. Severely long. Break up into three or four and punctuate properly] When not relying on studies or research, Chabris and Simons still use logos to convince readers with anecdotes such as the famous blunder of Neil Degrasse Tyson in misquoting then president Bush, Hillary Clintons [Clinton’s] exaggeration of her landing in Bosnia, or then president George Bush’s own failure to remember what exactly he said about the 9/11 terrorist attack (text). [Again, break up into separate sentences. Shorter sentences are more effective] In the end, Chabris and Tyson use pathos to call on people’s belief in fairness and understanding that they shouldn’t be so harsh when people admit they’re wrong, and that those in the public eye are just like them with memories that will fail them sooner or later [Great! Not many students understood pathos in this article. Amazing] (text). [Improper citation, eliminate (text)] Chabris and Simons tone is direct and honest, but they add in humor when relaying ridiculous events in political history that might be hard to believe or remember- which is the whole problem.
The top comments chosen by readers, the “Readers Picks,” were probably chosen for distinct reasons. The top comment is from Neil Degrasse Tyson himself, which was probably chosen because his blunder is what the op-ed piece centers around. Tyson uses logos in the form links to his explanations of the event, which can be assumed must’ve been popular with readers trying to create a fuller story in their heads. The second comment uses a humorous mix of pathos and logos by using real quotes from George Bush to play on readers disdain for the ex-president, and show his intelligence is nowhere to be seen [Dow’s comment doesn’t use emotional rhetoric. Not pathos but perhaps logos and ethos (Bush’s credibility)]. Clearly, the commenter convinced readers enough to become the second most liked comment. The third comment uses pathos in a convincing way to prove Chabris and Simons are right to say people should be more understanding, just as this commenter claims he tries to be in real life. The commenter claims he has seen people make malice instead of honest mistakes the causes for their negative experiences several times.
In comparison to the top comments in the “NYT Picks” section, the NYT Picks commenters are like the third comment from the “Readers Pick” section. All three use their past experiences or their own logic to either agree or disagree with Chabris and Simons. I think the New York Times method for ranking comments is effective because it balances out the need for constructive criticism like the NYT picks, and normal readers want for sarcastic, funny comments like the “Readers Picks” one filled with George Bush’s worst moments.

Why our Memory Fails Us

In the article “Why our memory fails us” by Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons, they use a mixture of facts and logic but also a mixture of emotions and empathy to get their point across.


Our bias not only blinds us but our memory does as well. Our overconfidence in memory is what causes us to lose sight of what was actually real and it causes us to distort important details. In the article “Why our memory fails us” by Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons, they use a mixture of facts and logic but also a mixture of emotions and empathy to get their point across. Their main argument in this article is that our memory changes things overtime and is like a giant game of telephone. When we try to recall events, we are pushing the past forward and trying our best to remember what happened that day and every single detail that came with it. With those facts being said [eliminate unnecessary phrase], the authors then just [word choice: authors jump to] to the conclusion that what we remember is based on our personal preferences and beliefs and may not be completely true. What causes people to push aside the thought that they may be wrong is their confidence in their mind and in their memory. The authors give examples of this throughout the article using influential people we know such as President Bush, a scientist named Dr. Tyson and Hilary Clinton. Dr.Tyson is a scientist and a host of a popular TV series and he made an error in his judgement when he spoke straight from his memory quoting something that Mr.Bush had stated in his speech following the attacks of 9-11 rather than to be sure and research it more deeply [run-on sentence]. His remarks ended up being false but for a remaining time after he stood by what he said and claimed it to be true. This is the first example that they use as stating that a person can be so confident in themselves and their actions, that they would refuse to see when they are false or what they are claiming is false. After time had gone by and more evidence came to the surface as he learned he was wrong, he publicly apologized. I believe that this example was meant for the readers to think about what they do and believe in their life. It plays on them and makes them realize that we all bend the truth and memories into what we want to believe and remember. This by all means does not state that you are a bad person but a person who will go to any length to prove what they think is right [Where’s the analysis? This seems to just be supporting or echoing the reading as opposed to examining how rhetoric was used to persuade].

The top three comments by the readers were interesting. One was not even about the article but mainly about how President Bush was terrible and he quoted and said things during his presidency that were not right [Perhaps that comment was meant to question the authors’ credibility (ethos)?].

The three top comments picked by the NYT were picked because they showed balance. One was stating how they disagreed with the whole article in general and the other two showed that they agreed with what was said. The one that disagreed was saying that we do not learn reason and start mistaking inference for memory. [How was rhetoric used? Is the ranking system effective?]

Individual Assignment 1 – Rhetorical Analysis of a New York Times article and commentary

Why does our memory fail us? According to Chabris and Simons, in their article, “Why Our Memory Fails Us,” it is quite ordinary for our memory to betray, or even trick us. They make it a point to declare that our imperfect memory is something that should be recognized, understood, and accepted. This point is constructed by using rhetoric methodically. They initially hook their readers using pathos, telling a story about Neil deGrasse Tyson accusing former President George W. Bush of making an anti-Islamic comment in a post-9/11 speech, based on a false memory. Any online narrative that mentions Bush is bound to play on the emotions of anyone reading because of how controversial his presidency was, and will get reactions stemming from that appeal [not necessarily true, an emotional topic, person, or event doesn’t automatically deem it an appeal to pathos].

Chabris and Simons then proceed to their logical appeal, which they mainly rely on to back up their argument. This appeal to logos, with multiple relatable ideas, TV and real-life examples, anecdotes, scholarly papers, experiments, and logical reasoning, strengthens their argument. Emotional appeal is a clever way to begin, so backing their argument up with studies that exhibit what they discuss, makes the argument plausible.

Ethos is not neglected, as they reference an expert panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences, which one of the article’s authors, Daniel J. Simons, served on. Both authors are psychology professors, as stated at the end of the article, which validates their ability to discuss the psychology and science behind human memory. The overall tone of the article is quite neutral, but also omniscient, which contributes to their ethical appeal further. They speak with such conviction; readers shouldn’t even doubt what they say.

Moving on to the comments section of the article, it is not surprising that the number one readers’ pick is one posted by Neil deGrasse Tyson himself, as the article stems from a mistake he committed based off an inaccurate memory. Any public figure is bound to get the most reactions, [no comma] when posting on a public forum, because of their mass following, especially online. So, [no comma] in Tyson’s case, his appeal to ethos was at his advantage for his comment to be the top readers’ pick.

The second readers’ picked comment bashes former President George W. Bush, which is expectedly popular, because of the abundance of people who dislike him. The comment’s author uses pathos and logos to attract his readers. Beginning with a quote from the article itself, stating that Bush is an intelligent person, followed by a witty contradiction, “I think your memory of Bush being an intelligent person is faulty.” Concluding his comment with a link to some verifiable quotes, spoken by Bush, to back up his rebuttal [logos is evident, pathos is not].

The third readers’ picked comment is the most logical choice in the top three. The commenter totally agrees with the article’s aim, using personal real life [real-life] examples to illustrate that our memory is not perfect. This appeal to logos, as well as agreement with the article, is likely what compelled so many readers to pick this comment.

New York Times editors had a slightly different take choosing their top comments. Their number one pick fully supports the notion that Chabris and Simons try to convey. The second comment picked disagrees with the whole idea, arguing that lazy minds are the problem, rather than memory dysfunction. The third editors’ pick is another comment that backs up the article by giving a common example, which demonstrates how memory can be unreliable. Therefore, the New York Times picks are based more on a logical and supportive premise, rather than the opinion-based picks chosen by readers. This is an effective ranking system because they are displaying both sides of the argument, while maintaining their position in agreement with the article.