Another Miracle Of The Human Mind: The Ability To Forget

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As humans, we still haven't fully figured out the human mind. It is one of the biggest and most popular mysteries. Advancements in technology open new doors to the possibility to explore and learn more about everything, including our extraordinary minds. The results about the mind's working principle as well as self-defense techniques do not cease to amaze us.

We have come across an article on a very interesting study on the World Economy Forum and thought that it would be nice to share it with you. Are you ready to go "WOW!?" 👇

In the early 2000s, a study on everyday dishonesty was conducted at Massachusetts University.

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Psychologists recruited a couple hundred students and grouped them into pairs. They instructed the pairs to chat for 10 minutes.

All conversations were recorded by a hidden camera.

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Later on the tapes were shown to the students and the subjects were asked how many times they lied during that conversation. It turned out that every student had at least lied twice in those 10 minutes. Some even went as high as 12 times!

The study discovered that people tend to see themselves as innocent only when they rely on their recollections.

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However, when they watch themselves, they realize that they haven't been as honest as they had earlier claimed to be.

And that was only 10 minutes!!!

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How about being aware of every instance of dishonesty we commit throughout the whole day?

We all want to believe that we are noble and ethical people.

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The truth is, however, most of us fail some ethical tests.

For example, lying is sometimes acceptable.

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Especially when we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, which is a great example of rationalization and justification: the assumption that if the unethical thing we choose to do will serve someone's well-being, it mustn't be that unethical. The human mind makes up its own excuses in order to defend itself, from itself.

What is even more interesting is that there is another mechanism that enables us to cope with our own ethical hypocrisy.

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According to the research conducted by professors Maryam Kouchaki and Francesca Gino at Harvard and Northwestern Universities; the human mind is very good at forgetting the bad things it has done.

In short: the human mind is inclined to forget the details about an unethical behavior.

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Because as we said before, everybody wants to think that they are noble, fair and ethical and everybody cares a great deal about being a "good" person.

And they have a name for this phenomena: unethical amnesia

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The researchers obviously designed a couple of experiments on this subject. In one of the experiments, the subjects were asked to toss a coin and if they predicted the outcome (heads or tails), they would receive money and most importantly, they were free to lie in order to make false financial gain.

After two days, the subjects had to take a memory test. While the subjects who didn't lie could remember the room, the furniture and other details quite clearly; the ones who lied fuzzier memories and lots of details about the setting was already erased. However, despite all of this, the dishonest subjects were very well able to recall what they did two days ago outside of that room: what they ate, where they went, etc. The fuzzy part was then, the test, where they lied about the outcome of the game.

Other similar experiments were carried out.

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One of them involved online betting. The participants were divided into two groups and they placed bets online. One group was allowed to change the amount of their bets according to the outcome, and the other group was not allowed to do so. If they won, they won, if they lost, they lost.

Result: tendency to "not clearly remember" in those who cheated.

It isn't only about this inclination towards forgetting. The mind also speeds up the process of forgetting.

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The more uncomfortable one feels about having been dishonest, the faster one forgets about the details of that instance.

The real question that can't be yet cracked here is this: Do we really forget those memories, or subconsciously suppress them?

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In other words, does the emotion we call shame interfere with the processes and ability to create and remember memories?

The answer to this question will be provided with more detailed experiments.

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Undoubtedly, thanks to the technologies that enable us to scan the human brain, we will soon know more about this and similar phenomena and other cognitive behavior patterns that are yet to be discovered.

What we know for now is that our minds have a way stronger mechanism than we thought when it comes to retaining our mental balance and self-respect.

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