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Brian Williams and Changing Memories

By on February 20, 2015

When we are coaching a client, one of the most useful tools we have is to alter the way in which he remembers events from his past. There are several ways to do this, for example using hypnotic reimprinting, or NLP’s ‘Change Personal History’ technique.

Each of these techniques relies on something called ‘memory reconsolidation’. You see memory is not a fixed media like a DVD. Rather memory is like a computer file that can be ‘edited’. In fact each and every time you remember an event from your past, the memory is subtly (or not so subtly) changed by whatever else is going on in your life at that time.

Research shows that this is a universal quality of memory, for example eye witnesses to crimes or road accidents will change how they remember the events depending on how they are questioned. So if a witness is asked how fast the car was going when it smashed into something, they will remember the car as traveling faster than if they are asked how fast the car was going when it bumped into the object. The way the question is asked will not only change how fast they estimate the speed, but actually how they remember the event.

Mr. Williams was asked to repeat the story of his now infamous helicopter ride many times after it happened. At the same time he was aware of, and would likely have recalled other details of the incident such as the damaged helicopter he saw later on. Because of memory reconsolidation, Mr. Williams might well have reincorporated these additional details into his memory of his own experience. If so, he might well have actually remembered the story as he told it, even though the story changed over time. He may have been genuinely surprised to find out he had fabricated details. In this sense he might actually have been telling the ‘truth’ as he remembered it.

Below you will find an article from live science discussing the Brian Williams case further. of us have asked ourselves in the past few days: can you really falsely remember something as significant as being in a helicopter that was shot down? This work suggests its plausible that Williams is truthfully describing what he remembers. Brian Williams correctly remembered the incident in Iraq shortly after it happened. Why Brian Williams Really May Have Remembered It That Way

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