For further details see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376635717304977
- Episodic memories are not accurate objective reflections of what happened, nor a permanent record of the past.
We don’t remember the scenes we actually saw, nor do we make a series of one-off snap shots of what happened.
Although we travel backwards to relive the past we do not reverse time mentally. We jump back to a specific point in time and then play the memory forwards again.
Memory evolved to anticipate and imagine future scenarios, but we think the future will be more like the past and the present than it will ever really be.
In this paper we highlight seven myths about memory, which centre around the fact that memories, as we experience them, are not only about the past, they are also prospective. Although episodic memory provides the template for future scenarios, it can be reassessed each time it is recalled, and in part is dependent on the sequence in which events unfold. We explore seven myths about memory, and the relationship between memory and experience. We refer to ‘The Moustachio Quartet’, a series of novels, which highlight themes and ideas relevant to our argument, and ‘The Creatures in the Night’, a picture book of paintings that explore the passage of time. We integrate evidence from science and the arts to explore the subjective nature of memory and mental time travel, arguing that our capacity to juggle multiple perspectives evolved for the act of prospection, as an aid to move time forward to the advantage of our species by imagining future scenarios.