Although amazing, our hippocampus and amygdala have their limitations. Both are a part of our brain’s limbic system, and both play roles in our memory systems. The synergy between the two are suspected to play a significant role in the long-term storage of emotional memories. Yet, according to J.E. LeDoux, “Emotions are conscious products of unconscious processes.” Here is the kicker and reason for this post.
Emotions influence our declarative memories, and leave remnants of consequences from our emotional responses. These neural transmissions sometimes bypass the usual (longer) route for memory storage and recollection. Hence, this explains why a particular sound or smell may evoke a feeling of anxiousness, without you completely understanding or remembering the event responsible for the behavioral response. Without corroboration of physical evidence, verifying reported memories can be difficult. However, this does not mean they are not true.
Unfortunately, research studies have demonstrated guided retrieval of memories can appear genuine to participants, especially when the participant feels pressured to remember a difficult-to-recall event. A suggestion as simple as, “imagine this event and the sights and sounds around you, but don’t worry about the accuracy of your memories”, has been shown to elicit completely false memories or disassociated memories.
False memories of events never occurred, whereas disassociated memories are truthful and guided components of memories that meld into one memory. Previous truthful components of memories and guided components become indistinguishable. The power of suggestion is noteworthy.
~ Dr. Michelle Doscher