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Each week on Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke, explore different aspects of human behavior and the brain.

Why All Memory is Virtual Memory

We may think of our memory functioning much like a movie camera does; capturing a scene and replaying it in a linear fashion. Yet, in actuality, it’s more like catching bits of paper at a ticker tape parade and weaving together a story of the past by re-constructing the pieces of paper we and others around us catch.

In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head, Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Dukeexplain how and why we construct memories, and how our memories can be influenced by variables that we may never consider.

The impetus for this particular show stemmed from a question that KUT producer Mike Lee posed to the Two Guys one morning:

When I’m old and have dementia will I think that I once fought in a war because I play war-themed video games a lot?”

In essence, how do virtual reality experiences influence our “actual” memories? It turns out that all memory is virtual. Not that there isn’t a physical reality, but that we construct an idea of the past through elements based on many different aspects of the actual events; including information that has nothing to do with the event at all.

We can even use the experiences of others to gain a better understanding of how to navigate the world, which can be taken for granted, but is actually unique to our species and pretty cool.

Check out some of the research Art and Bob mention in the piece, like that of Beth Loftus, to really dig into the intricacies of how memory works, and in the meantime, remember to appreciate the magnificence of the brain!

Rebecca McInroy is an award-winning show creator, host, and executive producer for KUT, KUTX, and KUT.ORG.
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