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Stronger Memories Can Help Us Make Sense of Future Changes

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Summary: The stronger a memory is as it is first encoded, the easier it is for a person to note subsequent changes and integrate them to update their understanding.

Source: WUSTL

Memory is as much about the future as it is the past.

Whether experiencing something new, or something we’ve experienced a hundred times, people use memories of the past to navigate subsequent encounters. Traditionally, psychologists believed that the more ingrained a memory of something was, the more difficult it would be to update your understanding of that thing, should it change.

New research from Washington University in St. Louis finds, however, the opposite is true. In a paper published Nov. 20 in PNAS, Jeffrey Zacks, professor and associate chair of the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences and professor of radiology in the School of Medicine, found the stronger a memory is first encoded, the easier it is for a person to notice subsequent changes and to integrate them into their updated understanding.

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