10 Ways Your Memory Is Completely Inaccurate

Memory Bias
If something is funny or positive, you're more likely to remember it. © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

A wide variety of factors can influence how well you remember, or don't remember, certain events. These are called memory biases. Memory biases can also affect how quickly you're able to recall something, while certain types of biases may actually alter some of your memories. Here are a few of the more common memory biases [source: Cohen]:

  • Humor. If something strikes us as funny, it's more likely to stick in our memory. The reason why isn't known, although some posit it's because humor is an emotional response, and emotions are more easily recalled. Or it could be that our brains work a little longer to process humor, thus giving the event more time to be laid down as a memory.
  • Leveling and sharpening. Our minds often forget certain details of a particular memory as time marches on. Sometimes our brains then sharpen the remaining details, causing them to become a more significant part of the memory than they originally were.
  • Positivity. Older people remember positive memories much more than negative ones. It's not known why this occurs.
  • Spacing effect. People remember information more easily and accurately if they're exposed to it often over a period of time.
  • Reminiscence bump. This bias causes you to recall personal events that occurred in your adolescence and young adulthood more easily than those from other time periods.