Your memory of your memory is sometimes stronger than the memory or stimulus itself

by phil on Sunday May 16, 2010 12:41 PM

I had two long dreams about imaginary Hitchcock films last night. Both were packed with details and authentic Hitchcock plot twists, and yet I can barely recall their stories. All I remember is that the first film had Cary Grant and a large silvery gun, shaped like an old box camera that snapped together. The second film had Natalie Wood, who witnesses a murder while she is young, but cannot convince anybody around her. It gets to the point where she eventually believes she must have misremembered the murder, until later in life, she re-discovers real evidence of the murder. But in classic Hitchcock horror, she is still powerless to convince anybody.

These two dreams were so vivid that I immediately had dreams about them afterward. I remember reminiscing and embellishing the films in a sort of dreamworld "post-production." So in addition to having an intense memory of the movies themselves, I also have intense memories of reminiscing about the movies. When I woke up, I was so pleased with having seen and enjoyed two great Hitchcock films, that it took me a while to unravel the layers of remembrance to realize that those films were not real.

Have you ever remembered remembering something, but couldn't actually remember the thing itself? I often imagine that's how it feels like on the witness stand, where your recollection of the scene of the crime is weak, but you feel bolstered by your secondary recollection of your recollection. You may have a faint memory of being at the crime scene itself, but you vividly remember sitting uneasy on your sofa back at your apartment, replaying the events of the crime scene over and over again in your head.

This reminds me about how databases and Google work. Google caches all these websites and then constructs an index for looking up search terms. But oftentimes, Google's cache expires or the website drifts, and all that is left is the index as proof that those website caches were once real.


Rafael said on May 19, 2010 7:03 PM:

Something similar happens to me. While I am dreaming, I often have deja-vus or remember other dreams that I supposedly had at an unspecified time in the past. It bothers me to no end because I can't know for sure whether I dreamed that other dream for real, andam really remembering it, or whether I am just dreaming that I dreamed it. (Did that make sense?) In any case, the "remember/deja-vu" feeling is really intense, and feels totally real.

Sometimes this confusion makes me aware that I am dreaming, and I keep trying to recall past dreams while I am aware that I am dreaming and it ends up waking me up because the whole thing is just mind-boggling.

One idea I had to try and settle this was to keep a dream journal, so I could search it to see if the dream I was reminded of is really there. But I am not disciplined enough for it.

Philip Dhingra said on May 20, 2010 12:52 AM:

I'm the same way, I don't have the discipline to keep a journal.

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