Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Understanding Mormon Disbelief/Schacter quote

From: Daniel L. Schacter, The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002).


"Egocentric biases," in contrast, reveal that we often remember the past in a self-enhancing manner. I will show that egocentric biases can influence recall in diverse situations, ranging from how divorced couples recall their marital breakups to students' recall of their anxiety levels prior to an exam. "Stereotypical biases" influence memories and perceptions in the social world. Experience with different groups of people leads to the development of stereotypes that capture their general properties, but can spawn inaccurate and unwarranted judgments about individuals.


Consistency biases are prevalent in both married and dating couples. Consider the following questions in relation to your own partner: How attached do you feel? How happy are you in your relationship? How often does your partner get on your nerves? How much do you love him or her? Then try to answer the same questions, instead focusing on how you felt a year ago. Married and dating couples who were asked similar questions twice, over a period of eight months or four years, often remembered correctly that they had given similar ratings on the two occasions. But those men and women whose feelings had changed over time tended to mistakenly remember that they had always felt the same way. Trying to remember what they felt four years earlier, four out of five people whose feelings remained stable showed accurate recall, but only one in five of those whose feelings had changed recalled accurately "the way they were." Results were even more dramatic when couples recalled how they had felt eight months earlier: 89 percent of women and 85 percent of men whose feelings remained stable accurately remembered their initial impressions, but only 22 percent of women and 15 percent of men whose feelings had changed showed accurate recall. The couples seemed to be saying "what I feel now is what I've always felt"—regardless of whether they had or not.

These kinds of biases can sometimes accentuate troubles that some married couples experience during their first few years together. Once the "honeymoon" is over, many couples experience a sharp drop-off in levels of satisfaction with their marriages. Difficulties in the present are hard enough to address during the early years of marriage, but consistency biases can make matters worse by coloring the past with the unpleasant tones of the present. Consider a study that followed nearly four hundred Michigan couples through the first years of marriage. In those couples who expressed growing unhappiness over the four years of the study, men mistakenly recalled the beginnings of their marriages as negative even though they said they were happy at the time. "Such biases can lead to a dangerous downward spiral," noted the researchers who conducted the study. "The worse your current view of your partner is, the worse your memories are, which only further confirms your negative attitudes."


Recently divorced couples' retrospective assessments of their failed marriages reveal that each member of the pair tends to portray the past from very different, consistently self-serving perspectives.