This is an important article and I hope it is widely read. Trite pop entertainment always makes memory appear as infallible camera footage that can be rewound and reviewed with perfect third-person perspective fidelity but in reality, as you write, every perception we have is flawed. Our tragedy is that we imagine our perceptions are accurate.

In addition to keeping a diary or some other form of log it’s also useful to simply cut away from the “busy brain” and force one’s focus onto external objective factors. While it sounds harsh, one of my tactics for being more reality-centric is to use the rule “it doesn’t matter what is said or what is thought, all that matters is what is done.” Thus in the example of being worried about the reaction of one’s boss to some incident, instead of attempting to analyze and predict, one simply observes the behavior of the boss in the subsequent time period and draws limited conclusions from their tangible actions.

This is really, really hard because the primary function of our primate-group-species brain is to infer intent within those around us. That’s why we gape at telenovelas and Hollywood pulp, study our colleagues, and have fantasies about all manner of people and situations. But mostly this is just a waste of time now that we no longer live in small hunter-gatherer groups. Our inferences and mental models are largely inadequate for dealing with today’s different environment and so cutting away is a better (though still very imperfect) strategy than indulging the desire of our brains to chatter away inside our skulls.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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