Mental Biases for Filtering What Should We Remember


Our minds process big chunks of data all the time and they need to decide what information is important for us to keep in working memory and what information should be filtered out.

If the information that our minds work with is not necessary for us, this information is filtered out to save mental capacity.

Mental Biases that Filter What We Should Remember:

Mental Bias: Misattribution Of Memory

Misattribution Of Memory is the cognitive bias relating to the ability to remember information correctly, but being wrong about the source of that information attributing it to an incorrect one.

If you tell someone some interesting fact and you don’t see this person for a couple of weeks, and the next time you see them they tell you the exact fact you told them as if you don’t know it, while you were the one who told them this information in the first place, these people are under the influence of this bias. Sometimes we remember the information but we let the source we attribute to this information fade away from memory, we remember the messages much better than we remember the messengers.

Mental Bias: Source Confusion

Source Confusion is the phenomenon where information that is conjured up during an imagination is stored in our memory and might later be mistakenly recalled as a memory of something that actually happened.

If you were on a party and you got drunk you would most likely forget about most that happened on the party. The next day you would try to remember details and you might imagine something that you though happened, like someone spilling a drink. When you ask your friends and they tell you what generally happened you would include the imagined memory of someone spilling the drink in the complete picture you are putting together from the previous night. However, this memory is not based on reality, it’s imagined.

Mental Bias: Cryptomnesia

Cryptomnesia is a mental phenomenon that occurs when a forgotten memory returns without it being recognized as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original.

If you are told to think of an original way to start a book, or a movie, most likely you would think of something that you would claim is your original idea, but in all probability it will be something you’ve already read or watched but you don’t consciously remember. Our mind picks up 400 Billion bits of information a second but we are only conscious of 2,000 of those, meaning your subconscious mind picks a lot of information that you are not even aware of.

Mental Bias: False Memory

False Memory is a mental phenomenon where a person recalls something that did not happen or they recall it slightly differently from the way it happened.

If you have an apartment and you have keys, you most likely forgot to lock it at some point. You were certain you did, you could have even remembered how you lock the door, but it turned out you didn’t actually lock the door. Another example is to think about the famous moment from Star Wars where Darth Vader tells ‘Luke, I am your father.’ And you probably remember it like this. You are certain it is like this. However, what Darth Vader actually said was ‘No, I am your father.’ But most people remember it as the first example. Another example is Forest Gump, you probably remember the line to be ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’ but you are actually wrong. The real quote is ‘Life was like a box of chocolates.’ But again most people remember it falsely.

Mental Bias: Suggestibility

Suggestibility is the cognitive fallacy of being inclined to accept and act on the suggestions of others where false but plausible information is given and one fills in the gaps in certain memories with false information.

If you are shown a video of a guy hammering a nail and you are given a white paper to describe the video with as much details as you can, the speed and strength of the hammer, the position of the nail, the speed of the hammering, you would be pretty confident in your ability to recall the video you just watched. However, let’s say the people who are giving you the paper say ‘describe the video of the hammer smashing the nail.’ You would most likely recall the hammer to be faster than it was, to hit the nail harder and stronger than it actually did, just because there is the word ‘smashing’ that’s adding to the suggestion. If the people said ‘describe the video of the hammer hitting the nail.’ You would not imagine the hammer hitting as hard, as fast and as strong as in the previous case, just because the word ‘hitting’ is not as strong as ‘smashing’ in this example.

Mental Bias: Spacing Effect

Spacing Effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session.

If you learn about a subject, let’s say nutrition, and you study about all topics in one session, like proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy foods, unhealthy foods and healthy recipes, you would not learn as much as if you study for each of the topics in separate sessions. This is because our mind can focus and dive into one topic to learn about it. If there are many different topics, it will just scrape the generalities to save mental energy because diving into all of them in one session is overwhelming for it. For the mind, in one session the main subject becomes the topic and all the chapters in it are the details it should generally remember to know the topic deeply. But if the chapters are separated in different sessions than each chapter becomes the topic the mind can dive into and learn more of as it knows it will have time to recharge after the study session.

Mental Bias: Implicit Stereotypes

Implicit Stereotypes is a mental bias where people attribute particular qualities to a member of a certain social group based on learned associations between particular qualities and social categories.

If you think about asians you would most likely assume they all look alike. If you think about black people you would assume they are good at sports like running. If you think about white overweight males in high corporate positions you would assume they are corrupted leaders. These default associations and generalities are of course, not true for all people who belong in these social categories.

Mental Bias: Prejudice

Prejudice is a mental tendency for a person to have affective feeling towards a person or group member based solely on that person’s group membership.

If you find out that someone is vegan you would assume that they would brag about it or maybe even judge your eating habits, so you might avoid eating together. In reality, these people might not even care about what you eat, nor care to explain why they eat like they eat. You have an opinion about them based on the diet group they belong in and based on the global gossip about the members within this group, you don’t really know them and their characteristics.

Mental Bias: Fading Affect Bias

Fading Affect Bias is a psychological phenomenon in which information regarding negative emotions tends to be forgotten more quickly than that associated with pleasant emotions.

If you experienced something sad in your life the information surrounding the sad event was much broader back then, than it’s now. You most likely don’t even recall much of it, you just know it was sad. And it might not be even that sad anymore. For some, such events might even become funny. However, if something happy and positive happened you most likely remember more information about it still. The information surrounding negative events evaporates faster than the one surrounding the positive events because we naturally want to recreate more positive events. However, unprocessed emotions might still linger within your subconscious mind even if the information around them is gone, the sensations might still be there.

Mental Bias: Peak End Rule

Peak End Rule is a cognitive bias where people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.

If you attend a presentation of your favorite professional public speaker about motivation, and they have a long and boring presentation but at the middle of the presentation they rant the best speech of their life for 10 minutes, and they finish the presentation with another strong rant that gives you goosebumps, you would tell everyone who asks you that it was one of their best public speeches ever. You will ignore the boring part of the presentation even if most of the presentation was boring. You’ll do this because of its peak and strong and powerful end. The result is not based on the average sum of the presentation but on how you felt at its peak.

Mental Bias: Leveling And Sharpening

Leveling And Sharpening are mental functions where the way people remember small details is customized and sharpened when telling a story, while some parts of those stories are toned, leveled and excluded.

If you tell a story to a group of friends you would most likely emphasize certain small details for the sake of story telling and exclude some boring parts of the story. However, in some cases these exclusions might completely change the meaning of the story and distort its message.

Mental Bias: Misinformation Effect

Misinformation Effect is a mental fallacy where a person’s recall of episodic memories becomes less accurate because of post event information.

If you participate in a game filled with mystery, let’s say you and your friends need to escape a room full of puzzles within a certain time and you fail, you will have one set of memories about the experience. If you later read about the walkthrough, if you discover the mysteries and ways how to solve the puzzles, and go with another group at the same room, you would most likely solve it. However, now the first set of memory you had about not escaping the room when you still didn’t know how to solve the puzzles, will be slightly distorted. When you recall this set of memories you will not recall it as accurately as before you go to solve the puzzles the second time because the information from the later event will interfere with the unknowingness of the first time you went there.

Mental Bias: Serial Recall Effect

Serial Recall Effect is the tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items the worst as the recall accuracy varies based on the item’s position on the sequence.

If you are given a grocery list and you go through it at home, but when you arrive to the store and want to remind yourself of what you needed to buy you realize you’ve lost the list, it’s most likely that you will just remember the first couple of items and the last couple of items from the list.

Mental Bias: List Length Effect

List Length Effect is a cognitive bias relating to the finding that recognition performance for a short list is superior to that for a long list, it’s consistent with predictions of item noise, not with context noise models.

If you are given a longer list and a shorter one you will remember much more items from the shorter list than from the longer one.

Mental Bias: Duration Neglect

Duration Neglect is the mental fallacy relating to the fact that people’s judgments of the unpleasantness of painful experiences depend very little on the duration of those experiences.

If you were told to put your hand in a painfully cold water for 15 minutes you would report that the experience is highly uncomfortable, let’s say from 1 to 5 you will say it’s 3. However, if you were told to put your hand in the cold water for 10 minutes instead of 15 you would still report the same level of unpleasantness and you would still rate it 3. You will neglect the duration of the experience.

Mental Bias: Modality Effect

Modality Effect is a mental phenomena relating to the case of how the learner’s performance depends on the presentation mode of the studied items.

If you read song lyrics you will remember them much differently than hearing them while playing the song, or seeing the singer how they sing those words. In all three cases your performance for learning will differ in accuracy, time and recall speed. This is because we process visual and auditory information in different areas. The way the information is presented to you determines your performance for learning it.

Mental Bias: Memory Inhibition

Memory Inhibition is the mental phenomenon relating to the fact that while some memories are retained for a lifetime, most memories are forgotten sooner or later.

If you are asked to remember what you ate for breakfast 3 months ago from now you would most certainly have no idea, you’ve forgotten this memory. However, if you are asked to remember when you had your favorite meal for the first time you would most certainly remember it with many details.

Mental Bias: Recency Effect

Recency Effect is the mental phenomenon relating to the fact that the most recently presented items or experiences will most likely be remembered best.

If you read a book, a novel with adventurous story, you will remember the recent events in the novel much better than the events that happened at the beginning of the story even though you remembered them just fine when you were reading those parts, and newest parts will overshadow most of the events you are reading about currently.

Mental Bias: Suffix Effect

Suffix Effect is the selective impairment in recall of the final items of a spoken list when the list is followed by a nominally irrelevant speech item, or suffix.

If you need to remember a list of items and they are spoken to you, but the person who tells you the items suddenly tells something irrelevant between the first and final items of the list, you would find it harder to remember the final items of the list.

Mental Bias: Levels Of Processing Effect

Levels Of Processing Effect is a mental bias relating to the fact that deeper levels of analysis produce more elaborate, longer lasting, and stronger memory traces than shallow levels of analysis.

If you study and analyze a subject for a longer period of time compared to a subject you study quickly, you will remember much better and much longer the subject you studied longer because you invested more mental energy there.

Mental Bias: Absent Mindedness

Absent Mindedness is a mental phenomenon where a person shows inattentive or forgetful behavior due to low level of attention, intense attention to different object or other distractions.

If you walk with three friends and you all speak while walking for various subjects, it’s most likely that during the conversation you will zone out at some point while they keep talking thinking about some irrelevant thoughts. And chances are they do it also while you were talking. This is because our attention is not that strong to be locked in on one continuous subject.

Mental Bias: Testing Effect

Testing Effect is a mental phenomenon relating to the fact that the finding that long term memory is often increased when some of the learning period is devoted to retrieving the to be remembered information.

If you study one day before you have a test, and you try to retrieve the information the night before, you will remember what you’ve studied much better than if you just studied and did not try to test yourself by recalling the information.

Mental Bias: Next In Line Effect

Next In Line Effect is the phenomena of people being unable to recall information concerning events immediately preceding their turn to perform.

If you need to give a public speech and someone seconds before you perform comes to you and tells you something, chances are you would not remember what they said after the performance. This is because high stress situations demand a lot of mental energy and the mind avoids spending energy where it’s not really necessary.

Mental Bias: Google Effect

Google Effect is the tendency to forget information that can be found readily online by using Internet on social media, translators or search engines such as Google.

If you read on the internet about the 10 best foods you should eat daily and if you study about the same subject in school knowing there is no other way to get to this information, you would most likely remember what you’ve studied much better than reading on the internet. This is because our mind knows this information is always available to us and doesn’t waste unnecessary energy to remember it.