Having false memories (remembering things slightly or a lot different from how they really happened) is very common for everybody, but recently, scientists have concluded that we all benefit somehow from them. According to Medical News Today, the Association for Psychological Science published in its journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, a paper on what the benefits of false memories are.
“False memories are a natural outcropping of memory in general”, psychologist Mark L. Howe says. Even though remembering things any other way but the real way they happened might be a trigger of worries, it is not necessarily a sign of an illness. All sane people have false memories and according to the scientists at Lancaster University in England, it is a part of our adaptation skills throughout the history of human kind. The incorrect memories, also referred here [in the paper published] as illusions, may have played a crucial role in our ancestor’s survival. “The animal that goes to a favorite food-foraging location and sees signs that a predator was there – but not the predator itself – may be on guard the next time”, Howe explains and continues: “But the creature that falsely remembers the predator was actually there might be even more cautious”.
Our memory is a psychological process, not a logical one. This means that there will always be errors in the perceiving, encoding and stocking the information we get from the external factors. Its main purpose is “to extract meaning from experience” and the illusions help that process. However, an excess of false memories can raise the suspicion of a mental illness, which must be brought before a doctor in order to examine it and set a diagnosis, if necessary.
The point that the study wants to make is that “just because a memory is false doesn’t make it bad”. False memories have the same impact on our behavior as real memories, as our brain does not distinguish between them. Thus, they could enhance our self-esteem, our level of tolerating some actions that we falsely remember as “not so bad”, our social skills and so on. False memories can also help in problem solving and in getting a better perspective on past events.