Memory Bias

Every fall, my husband and I give in and pay the ridiculous monthly fee to get Showtime so we can watch Homeland, and the last two years, The Affair. You guys, I’m obsessed. Season 1 was phenomenal, and while Season 2 hasn’t held my husband’s interest because he claims it’s verging on the edge of a “chick flick” (I know, I know…that phrase is just as rage-inducing for me), the show can still count me as a loyal follower. But, at the onset, my husband and I were both equally sold on the writing, and more importantly, the style of storytelling.

The story is told through each character’s memory biases. What started as memory biases of just two main characters has grown to include two additional key characters in Season 2. I think when we started watching the show last fall, I was enamored by the idea of memory biases. I think of myself as a pretty great storyteller (humble too, uhem) and the idea that someone could have such a vastly different memory from a shared experience is sort of upsetting to me. Especially since, despite using superlative language a little too much, I’m not much of an exaggerator. Intense and dramatic, yes, but divergent from reality, not so much. My husband would tell you I’m a boring storyteller sometimes because of my interest in sticking to reality. But I mean, come on — life is scary enough without intensifying it to the nth degree.

For the first time ever, memory biases in my business relationships have become simply puzzling. In my new project management role, I’m extensively documenting interactions from meetings and phone calls in order to outline roles and responsibilities and next steps. I also use that documentation to provide appropriate recall when decisions and actions come into question. But, I’ve learned that despite agreement and acceptance of actions at a given point, people’s memory bias and further experience create conflicts and power struggles. It’s exhausting.

Solutions have evaded me, and hindered so much progress. I’ve been conceding more than defending and feel as though the loss of credibility in doing so is somehow worse than an argument. I wonder if others have had similar difficulty with variances in memory recall and what you’ve utilized or developed. Can you relate? Has memory bias ever damaged any of your relationships, personal, business, or otherwise?

(More importantly, do you love The Affair as much as I do?!)

– Ashley Respecki

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