I used to work at St James’ Park in London and would travel in to Victoria station… Have you ever been to Victoria station?

Not only is it one of the UK’s largest train stations, it is also one of Londons biggest bus stations and an incredibly busy tube station… At 5pm, that place is heaving!

I found it interesting because I would very rarely bump into anyone, often people would bump into me and the same people would often bump into others too… Why is that?

They are in hypnosis. Simple as that.

Next time you are in a busy environment, just look at who is actually being poised, aware and focused on the outside world… And then notice the people who are in a trance, engaged in their own inner world, maybe thinking about their day at work, lost in deep thought, yearning to be home, wishing to somewhere else… Or any other thing.

That is the reason I am so very interested in a thought provoking article pointed out to me yesterday….

A lovely chap (thanks Gordon), highlighted this hypnotic article at the BBC and it asks this: 

If someone was killed in front of you would you remember what happened? Many experts are challenging the view that eyewitnesses recounting what they saw is the best way of tapping their memory. Some think brain scans could be the way forward.

Think of a journey you made yesterday. I’m sure you remember it.

So can you remember whom you sat next to? Can you remember what the weather was like? Who was in front of you in the petrol queue? Was it a man or a woman?

Naturally, most of the time we don’t remember these details. But what if someone got knifed in the petrol station? Then we become witnesses to a crime. And our ability to recall these minor details may have a significant role in authenticating our memory of the offence.

My question would be — how much attention were you paying? How aware are you of the world going on around you? How deep a trance state were you in as you floated around the environment of your daily life?

The article continues:

Some researchers suggest that we shouldn’t need to remember these details. They are increasingly questioning the way that the police, lawyers and the courts think about memory. They argue that this conventional model of memory — like a detailed photograph or video film — is fundamentally flawed.

One of the most prominent of these researchers, Prof Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California at Irvine, even says that courts should have a new oath for witnesses: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, or whatever it is you think you remember?”

Hahahaha… This is funny, it is also absolutely true. When we are fully aware and engaged, we code things inside of our mind incredibly accurately with all of our senses. If we are inside our minds, then we may be colouring our memory, contaminating it with all kinds of other things.

As an example, can you remember much of what was said to you when dancing in a nightclub? What with the very loud sounds, the amount of visual stimulus distracting you… And maybe the odd drink or two scattering your salient thoughts, you may not be coding the detail of the reality you are in.

The article also states:

Now Prof Martin Conway, a cognitive psychologist at Leeds University, has drawn up a report for the British Psychological Society and the Law Society calling for a major rethink of memory and the law.

He suggests his guidelines will help scientists who specialise in memory research when they testify as expert witnesses to help the courts assess the evidence.

Memories are essentially a construct from a variety of sources and experiences, Prof Conway says. They are not necessarily a factual account of what happened.

What’s more, a significant proportion of people seem to be highly suggestible and will quite readily change what they remember if given appropriate cues.

This is spot on, isn’t it? The article gives a great example of what I was just illustrating:

In one famous study, Dutch researchers questioned people about a 1992 accident in which a cargo plane had crashed into a block of flats near Schiphol Airport.

Ten months later, they conducted a survey asking if people remembered seeing the TV film of the plane hitting the building. More than half of the respondents said they had. A later study found that the proportion had gone up to two-thirds.

The problem is, there is no TV film of the accident. Asking the question had itself apparently changed people’s memories.

A similar phenomenon happened with the shooting in London of the suspected terrorist Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Underground Station.

Initially witnesses claimed that he was wearing bulky clothing and that he had vaulted the ticket barriers as he ran from police.

A police spokesman said on the day that, “his clothing and behaviour added to their suspicions”, and that he ran onto the train after police had issued warnings. These claims were incorrect.

But people still express surprise when told he wasn’t wearing a large coat and are confused about how he entered the tube because the inaccurate reports became cemented into individual memories.

I find that so few people are actually ever aware of what is truly going on around them… And often those that are really aware, start to get paranoid in all manner of ways… The brain and it’s workings are amazing to behold, aren’t they?

Now comes the even more interesting stuff in the article:

So are witnesses consciously or subconsciously having their memories altered?

There is little data available regarding the extent of suggestive questioning of eyewitnesses. One British study using actual interviews indicates that approximately one out of every six questions posed to eyewitnesses was in some way suggestive.

The police say they are already aware of the risks and do their utmost to avoid them.

So, even if they were not in some trance state at the time of the memory, there is a good chance of them being influenced by how the questions are posed and framed… Not only the content of how they are framed, but also the tonality, the belief system of the questioner, and so much more can influence a memory especially if it is not coded well…

My advice? Pay attention to the world around you and you are far less likely to be influenced, far less likely to be unsure of what you think and you’ll remember with more clarity. I think it is knowing your own mind better.

The article does continue and is worth a read. Good one to be thinking about today. If you read my ezine last week, you’ll know I wrote about how to actually engage you senses in much more of your life, much more of the time. I think it is well worth doing so….