5 Reasons Why Key Memories Are a Myth

In life, everything is not at all like in the cartoon “Inside Out”.What are your key childhood memories? Can you selectively block access to them? What do they say about you?.

The term “key memories” has become popular thanks to popular culture. Videos with this hashtag on TikTok have already collected one and a half billion views. Although the concept itself was mentioned in the cartoon ” Puzzle “, which was released in 2015. According to the plot, about five of the most important memories are considered key. The idea is that some events are so important to us that they instantly affect our personality, behavior and self-consciousness. But do such memories really exist?

And while we do use memories to construct our self-perception and they do support our psychological well-being, science suggests that there are at least five reasons why key memories are just a myth .

  1. We have more than five key memories

Autobiographical memories (memories of us and our lives) are stored in long-term memory. It is a huge storage facility with no known  size or capacity limits .

That is why our consciousness is not limited to only five or even fifty memories. And depending on the context, completely different moments of our past can be useful to us. This means that in one situation we can recall one set of memories of our becoming, and in another situation a completely different set.

  1. Key memories don’t shape our character.

Although our memory is critical to us, individual memories do not affect our personality in any way.

Psychologists and cognitive scientists often say that autobiographical memory has at least three main functions:

  1. Identity Formation – We know who we are through past experiences.
  2. Socialization– By telling stories from the past, we make connections with other people.
  3. Regulation – memories help us learn from the past and solve problems in the future.

Some vivid memories may be especially important to our identity. For example, winning a district championship in volleyball can affect how we rate our athletic ability. However, the main character traits remain relatively stable.

  1. Childhood memories aren’t always the strongest.

Contrary to popular belief, our most vivid autobiographical memories are not always associated with childhood. In fact, we do not remember the early years of life very well. As a rule, we can mentally return to individual events from about 3 or 4 years old, but we do not retain many memories until the end of elementary school.

Most of our important memories, on the contrary, are associated with the beginning of adulthood. One explanation for this phenomenon is that the earliest childhood memories are usually quite mundane. What interests us in childhood may not interest us as adults at all, and vice versa. The events that shape us take place in late adolescence and early adulthood, when our sense of self is stabilized.

Of course, we often nostalgic for childhood and former life. And the key memory trend is probably picking up on that bittersweet sense of longing.

  1. We can’t predict what will become a key memory for us.

We often feel like exciting moments like family reunions, hugs, and snowball fights are bound to become our new main memories. This is wrong.

We do remember emotional events better than neutral ones, but we cannot choose among them. So, it is impossible to predict what we will remember and what we will forget .

Events that will become truly important to us over time may seem completely ordinary at the moment they occur. And different memories can have different meanings at different stages of our lives.

When it comes to even the most significant events, we are likely to forget many details that then seemed incredibly important to us.

  1. Key Memories Are No More Accurate Than Others

Key memories are sometimes presented as video clips, as if we can hit play and replay past events. In the past, something similar was said about ” flash memories ” – very vivid memories that are formed when we first learn about some dramatic event.

In fact, each of our memories can change, be forgotten and become false in small details. Even if it refers to a very important moment in life.

Errors are due to how our memory works. Usually we remember the big picture and some details. And when we retrieve a memory from memory, we reconstruct the event: we connect the essence and fragments as much as possible, and fill in the gaps where we forgot something.

Every time we think back to a situation, we have the opportunity to change the details, bring in new emotions, and rethink the meaning of what happened. For example, you keep a happy memory of your engagement  to your loved one. If you disperse, the reconstruction process will add new negative emotions to the memory itself.

And although “key memories” is a made-up term, the trend in it shows how valuable memories are. Memory allows us to look into the moments of the past, filled with emotions and associated with the formation of our identity. When we share our memories with others, we share a part of ourselves.


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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