History (General) Questions and Answers

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How does our experience and memory of the past affect our choices and belief in the present?

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Becky Diamond eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Think about a choice you are making today – even something simple as which soup to have for lunch. The options are chicken noodle or split pea. Maybe you associate chicken noodle with your grandma, who often made it. It gives you a warm, comfortable feeling. You like split pea ok, but you’d rather dine on chicken noodle to recreate and revisit those good memories. Psychologists have found that when people recall choices from their past, they tend to assign positive characteristics to the options they chose, and negative features to those they had rejected. Therefore, when a person remembers past choices, those associated with “good” thoughts will sway his or her present choice to the one tied to the memories that evoke feelings that are more emotional and vivid. So yes, many of our current choices and beliefs in both the present (and the future) are influenced by past memories. You are essentially using memories of past experiences as a forecasting tool.