Monday, March 26, 2007

Remembering the Past May Influence How We Imagine the Future

Our autobiographical (or episodic) memory is sometimes to referred to as "constructive" rather than "reproductive," because it's prone to errors and illusions so that we aren't remembering really what we experienced, but rather what we synthesized, based on what happened to us.

Here researchers found that a very similar brain network reconstructing the past is activated when test subjects were asked to visualize the future. This may explain why some hippocampal amnesiacs have trouble imagining the future. It may also explain why severely depressed individuals problems accurately recalling the past and being able to specifically imagine events that could happen to them in a future (a particularly dangerous situation in the case of individuals with suicidal thoughts).

A study such as this reminds us of the importance of how we (or our children) make meaning of our pasts. If children look back on their experiences and see only failure, they may be robbed of their dreams for the future.

Episodic Memory - Remembering the Past and Imagining the Future - fMRI pdf
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Teaching Optimism

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