Prediction and memory

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Chapter 4 endnote 9, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Prediction is such a fundamental activity of the human brain that some scientists consider it the brain’s primary mode of operation.

Memories and predictions are the same thing. We usually think of memories as something we experience, but memories are also past experiences that your brain cobbles together for use in the present.

Scientists have known for decades that we don’t store memories in the brain like files in a filing cabinet, but we create them anew each time we need them.[1] Sometimes you are aware of them and sometimes you are not. Memory is something your brain does, not something you have. Memories, predictions, and simulations are all words for the same phenomenon.

When I say that predictions are based in past experience, I don’t mean just your direct experiences with the world. Predictions are influenced also by what you watch on TV, the movies you see, the novels you read, and the experiences that your friends tell you. Even a few tidbits of nasty gossip about someone, my lab has shown, will influence the predictions that your brain makes about that person.[2]

Notes on the Notes

  1. Schacter, Daniel L. 1996. Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind, and the Past. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Anderson, Eric., Erica H. Siegel, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, and Lisa Feldman Barrett. 2011. "The Visual Impact of Gossip." Science 332: 1446-1448.