How does your brain choose what to recall ?

My understanding is that your brain records every sight, scent, touch, taste and sound you experience over your lifetime.
When you go to an event…lets say a dinner. One person will remember that the waiter was wearing a blue shirt; the other might remember that the waiter had green eyes. Both people are right.
Why is it that one person remembers one thing and another; something else?
Was is it that tells the brain “Hey, remember this” Is it purely based on what you as an individual consider more important ?

Being an ex-Ph.D student in behavioral neuroscience, I am sad to say that no one knows this. The human brain and cognition is less understood than anything in science and the current state of the art is much more basic than the level of this question.

You remember the shirt; they remember the eyes. It’s much easier that way. Your individual brain or mind needs to do less work to reconstruct the event. …and because the subconscious mind can interact with other subconscious minds but your conscious mind can’t - that’s why you have conversations.

So what was life like on that Borg cube, Kozmik?


Is this even true? I thought this notion had been disproved, or at least set aside in favor of different people recording different parts of the world in the first place, not just remembering different pieces later.

EM is right. I don’t have a handy cite, but I’ve read in reputable sources that the notion of the brain having a 100% recording capability has been thoroughly disproven.

Only a small fraction of what you experience is ever stored anywhere and what is stored is far from a movie with sound, more of a series of Impressionist sketches in various media.

What does get stored is later recalled at all with varying reliability & if recalled, with widely varying accuracy of reproduction.

We don’t take much notice of these shortfalls because that’s the only way we’ve ever experienced it. And it’s good enough for most of what we do with it.

Maybe this will help - from The World of Psychology, 5th edition, by Wood, Wood and Boyd.

"Characteristics of and Processes Involved in the Three Memory Systems:

  1. Sensory Memory - temporary storage for sensory information - capacity is large, duration; visual 1/10th of a second, auditory 2 seconds. Information lost through decay and displacement.

  2. Short-Term Memory - brief storage for information currently being used - capacity is about 7 items with a range of 5-9; duration less than 30 seconds without rehearsal. Information lost through decay and displacement and interference.

  3. Long-Term Memory - permanent or relatively permanent storage - capacity is virtually unlimited; duration from minutes to a lifetime. Information lost through encoding failure, consolidation failure, interference, motivated forgetting and retrieval failure."
    The upswing of the information above is that the brain is kind of like a sieve…everything passes through it, but it depends on the person when it comes to remembering things. People develop interests, so while I might see a movie and remember all kinds of details, you will see the same movie and only remember a few highlights because you were less interested. You might go to a lecture on chemistry and be fascinated and soak it all in for later recall, but my interest is zilch and can only remember the professor had his fly open during the entire lecture.

My effing brain refuses to retain the things I want it to (e.g. my niece’s birthday last Thursday - I thought about it on Sunday but only recalled it again on Friday, by which time it was too late) but instead retains all sorts of rubbish I didn’t need to know in the first place.

I think it’s having a laugh.

No, it’s not true. Speaking with almost obscene simplicity, the brain filters incoming information which stimulates previous connections most strongly becomes affixed in more-or-less permament memory; hence, why you can’t remember much if anything of early childhood, but why you can recall the color of shirt you wore the first day of kindergarden. Eric Kandel’s recent autobiography, while not terribly technical, covers this in extensive detail for the layman. Ultimately, however, Shagnasty has it right; our understanding of cognition and memory, such as it is, is limited to the very basic level of individual impulses and neural structures and doesn’t encompass larger or abstract cognitive constructs like sight-sound-smell memories or extensive detail.