Your Brain Can Fool You Into Hating Something You Actually Like

Your Brain Can Fool You Into Hating Something You Actually Like

Our brains love playing tricks on us, and the results can be detrimental. Because of how we remember certain events, even a good experience can be recalled as an awful one because of one little problem.

Image: Bruno de Regge

Dr Peter Noel Murray, writing for Psychology Today, explains:

[A] consumer could have a great experience with a product or service, but only have bad memories when thinking about it later. Here’s how. Let’s say you are on vacation and have dinner at the best restaurant recommended to you. Perfect table. Food is exquisitely prepared. Wonderful wine. The experience is fantastic. However, when clearing the table the waiter spills coffee into your lap. Odds are that the coffee spill will degrade your memory of the food and wine, no matter how exceptional you otherwise would have remembered them. And if the hot coffee burned a leg or damaged an expensive dress or suit, the wonderful dining experience may not be remembered at all.

Basically, when something bad happens it overwrites the good portions of your memory. As we learned with bad days, your brain likes to focus on the negative stuff. To counteract this, the best thing you can do is remind yourself of the good parts of the experience as soon as possible. Think about everything good that happened instead of the one bad moment. Perhaps the bad moment is enough to deter you, but if not you can use it as an opportunity to remind your brain to store a positive memory instead of a negative one.

How Memories of Experience Influence Behavior [Psychology Today]


  • “Our brains love playing tricks on us”

    Great trashy statement. First off, the brain and the mind are two different things. The former is a physical organ and the latter an epiphenomenon that we know very little about. Second, neither of them “love playing tricks on us.” Its like this article was written by someone in high school (or a 7-11 version of neuro-hack Malcolm Gladwell).

    The cognitive process being discussed in the article is, like most things, more complex than presented. Using the example given above, if you were at the restaurant proposing marriage to the love of your life and she/he said yes, and you were both ecstatic about it, the spilled cup of coffee might make very little impact in memory.

    We are talking about emotional valence and its ties to memory. Powerful, complex, and highly malleable.

    • Actually we know an enormous amount about the mind. Take memory (alone): we know the power laws that describe memory processes. We know how many and what kinds of memory there are. We know the capacities of working memory, how it divides into the phonological loop and visual sketchpad, we know where long term memories are stored and how they are reconsolidated. And so on. Whether the mind and the brain are distinct or different is an ongoing debate.

      • Ostrich, I think the current neural imagery research being done into cognitive functioning is fascinating. Mostly because it up-ends a lot of cognitive theory.

        • Oh and matte you have to consider the audience of the site you’re visiting! You can’t get all up in arms about reading ‘pseudo-science’ on a page designed for hits and interesting tidbits over observations and variables. Most people don’t want to read that stuff and prefer ‘dumbed-down’ material. I’m more a fan of clicking source links on pages like this and as always taking everything with a grain of salt thanks to my cynical scientific brain…I mean mind 😛

      • I would hesitate to place yourself so far on the spectrum towards definite in these matters! With the brain and it’s biochemistry there’s still a bunch we don’t know but are learning. Synaptic plasticity and the consequent long and short term potentiation of synapses is a big field that progress is being made on but not yet fully understood along with its implications for memory. Sure we’ve generalised the ‘types’ of memories but as with all things in science eventually the lines will be blurred and we’ll have to throw out our theories in a few years 😛

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