A Memory's Accuracy

Carey, Benedict, and Hoffman, Jan. “They Say Sexual Assault, Kavanaugh Says It Never Happened: Sifting Truth From Memory.” The New York Times, 25 Sept. 2018

After hearing about the charges against Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I decided to do further research to gain a better understanding. I came across an article that analyzed scientific elements of memory to explain the case which I found incredibly enlightening and changed my perspective on the situation.

In light of the serious sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh, experts have taken a closer look into the science and accuracy of one’s memory. Although multiple women have come forward claiming Kavanaugh attempted rape, Kavanaugh continues to deny allegations that he was responsible for such actions. This makes people wonder what the real story is and who to truly believe. Studies have proven that memory is selective, and its details lose accuracy over time. The brain “encodes” emotions and sensations that the person endures in the moment, affecting individuals in the same situation in different ways. Timing of memory retrieval is also a crucial factor because this can affect the accuracy of memory. Random senses, situations, and words may trigger a certain memory and allow a person to suddenly recall things they did not think about before. In this situation, alcohol plays a role as both sides were intoxicated. Alcohol affects one’s memory and often leaves a person unstable and delusional. This brings into question the credibility of both Kavanaugh and one of the accusers, Dr. Ford, since they both consumed alcohol and therefore their stories are not necessarily accurate. Both Kavanaugh and Ford strongly stand by their case and believe they are telling the truth, however their side of the truth may be distorted by their memory/interpretation of the situation.

Memory and the accuracy of one’s memory plays a pivotal part in both Kavanaugh's and Ford’s credibility. There is no true evidence to prove either side, so recollection of events is all that the court has to go by. I think it is really important for Americans to understand the science behind memory before jumping to conclusions. In any situation, people should be fully informed on both scenarios before forming an opinion and choosing a side. After reading this, I personally support Ford in her case. She was able to remember this event after 36 years because it was so traumatic to her, whereas Kavanaugh may not remember it because he was drunk and unhurt. “Experts suggest, there are scenarios in which someone could have committed an assault and yet also have almost no memory of it.” Kavanaugh may be telling the truth, but his version of the truth may lack certain memories.

Despite writing about such a controversial topic, I was struck by how the authors, Carey and Hoffman, maintained an unbiased tone throughout their article. They focused on the facts that were provided without ever once letting their opinions or emotions get in the way. They used credible research and statistics from scientists and experts to provide readers with as much information as possible. By providing the facts, readers had the opportunity to formulate their own opinions on the situation.