Hearing someone say something and then forgetting what they said 10 seconds later is a relatable phenomenon, especially for folks with boring friends.
A new study confirms what our failure to encode Todd's virtual happy hour story about his Cocker Spaniel already suggested: everyone's short-term memory is really bad.
What researchers found was that our entrenched beliefs cause us to regularly generate "short-term memory illusions" just seconds after we take in information. In other words, we alter information according to pre-conceived expectations.
In the study, participants were shown a series of letters and mirrored versions of letters ("pseudo letters"), and later asked to recall details about them. Researchers weeded out all respondents who didn't report being highly confident in their answers.
~40% of respondents mis-remembered pseudo letters as being real. Yet, this dynamic was not seen when the same exercise was conducted with shapes instead of letters.
"People seem to be sensitive to memory illusion where they already have a preset notion of what the world should look like," says the study's author. "This is very strong for letters because we have a lot of experience with them."
Bottom line: previous knowledge and beliefs of all kinds appear to fundamentally and powerfully shift our short-term memory. Be cognizant of pre-conceived notions!