I typically try to stay away from taking too much pain medication. I heard once that taking too much pain medication can cause damage to your liver or kidneys. I learned this from my husband shortly after we were married. I was surprised to learn this, so I asked him where he heard it from. He admitted that his mother had taught him this information. So, one day, out of pure curiosity, I asked his mother how she learned about the pain medication causing damage to our vital body organs, and she confessed that she could not remember how she learned about this incredible information, only that she had heard it at some point in her life and has passed it down to those she loves the most.
The phenomenon of not remembering where a person has learned something is one of the most common happenstances, and is known as “source amnesia.” Defined by Dictionary.com, source amnesia is memory loss that makes it impossible to recall the origin of the memory of any given event. Another website sums up the definition into modern day language by stating that “basically, source amnesia is where you hear information that is familiar and you have heard it before but you cannot remember where you heard that information from. For example, you heard the stereotype that British people have bad teeth, but then you do not recall where you got your sources” (theneuron.wetpaint.com). Source amnesia is part of a person’s memory that is conscious and intentional and probably due to the disconnect between semantic and episodic memory (Tulving). Because of the way the human brain works, repetition becomes one of the most effective ways to emphasize and idea over time…and may lose the connection to how it was learned… (www.newlibrarianship.org). In some instances, facts may be forgotten because of simple forgetfulness. In other cases, people have repeated the story either in their minds or verbally so many times with so much emphasis that they begin to believe this fictitious story. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true (Want).
An interesting concept that is birthed from social amnesia are the creation of urban legends (Whipps). Of course, some people create these stories purely out of enjoyment. However, there are others that are created by people who truthfully believe that the stories are true. These stories may have been passed down out of cultures. When a person is asked where they received their information, they often cannot remember or heard the story from other people within their culture or surroundings. The possibility also exists within other situations such as the example given at The Atlas of New Librarianship in which someone may have mistaken something Sarah Palin or another politician may have said based on someone posing as her on a comedic television show such as Saturday Night Live.
In addition, politicians also use source amnesia to their favor when spreading rumors about their opponents during a political campaign without even researching the validity of the rumor. Many will remember that President Obama has had to try and redeem himself in regards to being accused of being a Muslim which he has done by talking often of his Christian upbringing (Want). In actuality, he has never suggested that he was a Muslim but a rumor was started, probably based on his political actions. It is probable that there are many people who honestly believe that he is a Muslim because of the rumor that was started some time ago.
Amnesia as a whole is when people lose their ability to memorize data (Nordqvist). Although amnesia is very popular theme for movies and books, it is a very rare condition (Nordqvist). There are many types of amnesia besides the more well-known versions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Some of these include Angerograde Amnesia (short term), Retrograde Amnesia (can’t remember things prior to a certain event or trauma), Transient Global Amnesia (temporary loss of all memory), Traumatic Amnesia (blow to the head causing loss of consciousness or coma), Wernike-Korsakoff’s Amnesia (caused by alcoholism), Hysterical Amnesia (forget their past and their identity), Childhood Amnesia (forget their childhood), Posthypnotic Amnesia (can’t remember even with hypnosis), Blackout Phenomenon (can’t remember pieces of info during binge drinking), Prosopamnesia (can’t remember faces), and finally, Source Amnesia. Scientific studies have been conducted to try and determine if source amnesia can be resolved.
However, “until we understand the simple and complex neural circuitry, map the neurological centers responsible for episodic memory and thus source amnesia, and identify the pathways for neuro-biological and -psychological maturation, deterioration, and damage, source amnesia and related conditions will remain largely unsolved” (Lakhan). Studies have been done successfully on elderly patients, but studies on the younger children have been inconclusive due to the immaturity of the frontal brain lobes in which are necessary to make proper conclusions (Lakhan). However, Lakhan did summarize his findings in stating that he has found that the elderly patients he has tested performed better when in a dark room. He suggested in order to help combat phenomenon’s such as source amnesia, a person should keep their mind active by doing challenging puzzles, reading, exercising and stimulating blood flow, taking antioxidants such as Vitamin E, avoiding head injuries, and preventing strokes which can cause amnesiac episodes by treating disorders such as hypertension, obesity, stress, smoking, and alcoholism.
Lakhan, Shaheen Emmanuel (2007). Neuropsychological Generation of Source Amnesia: An
Episodic Memory Disorder of the Frontal Brain Journal of Medicine: 1 Nordqvist, Christian (14 July 2009). “What is Amnesia? What Causes Amnesia?” Medical News
Today. Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9673.php Tulving, E. (1972). Episodic and semantic memory. In E. Tulving and W. Donaldson (Eds.),
Organization of Memory (pp. 381-403). New York: Academic Press Want, S., & Aamodt, S. (27 June 2008). Your brain lies to you. The New York Times. Retrieved
from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/27/opinion/27aamodt.html Whipps, H. (27 August 2006). Urban legends: How they start and why they persist. LiveScience:
Science, Technology, Health & Environmental News. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from