In our memory, perceptions are filtered by our own personal experiences, beliefs, knowledge and even our moods. These biases affect our perceptions and experiences. When a memory is retrieved, those biases can influence what information we recall.
In her blog for Ness Labs, nesslabs.com/memory-bias, Anne-Le Cunff lists some various forms of memory biases we may experience:
- Rosy retrospection bias: We tend to remember the past as having been better than it really was, which leads to judging the past disproportionately more positively than we judge the present.
- Consistency bias: We incorrectly remember our past attitudes and behavior as resembling our present attitudes and behavior, so we feel like we're acting in accordance with our general self-image.
- Mood-congruent memory bias: We better recall memories that are consistent with our current mood. For instance, feeling relaxed may bring back relaxing memories; feeling stressed may bring back stressful memories.
- Hindsight bias: We consider past events as being predictable — also called the knew-it-all-along bias.
- Egocentric bias: We recall the past as being better than it was in a self-serving manner, such as remembering our exam grades as being better than they really were.
- Availability bias: Memories that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case. This is why people tend to overestimate the likelihood of attacks by sharks or the number of lottery winners.
- Recency effect: We best remember the most recently presented information. At a trial, for instance, evidence presented last may be the clearest in a juror’s memory.
- Choice-supportive bias: We remember chosen options as having been better than rejected options.
- Fading affect bias: Our emotions associated with unpleasant memories fade more quickly than our emotions associated with pleasant memories.
- Confirmation bias: Our tendency to seek and interpret memories in a way that confirms our prior hypotheses or personal beliefs.
Researchers have found good news in the relationship of memory bias and aging adults.
In the June 2003 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the American Psychological Association reported that memory bias favoring the recall of positive images increases in successively older age groups. There is a tendency of older adults to regulate their emotions more effectively by maintaining positive feelings and lowering negative feelings.
We all have attitudes and preconceived notions that bias our memories; however, research is minimal regarding the brain mechanisms behind memory bias or whether it becomes more common with age.