In with the Bad, Out with the Good

Going off our reading due Wednesday, I wanted to pay special attention to memory and what it entails. Memory is a fascinating concept. Some people are able to store loads of information in their heads while others struggle even remembering what they had for breakfast the day before. In particular, I want to focus on internal knowledge and how people use it as a “memory bank” essentially. Some memories are kept throughout a lifetime, and some only last half a day until they are thrown out and never to be remembered. Basically, as Donald Norman writes in chapter three, “knowledge in the mind is ephemeral: here now, gone later” (80). But what exactly are the kinds of memories that people retain? Is it possible to know which ones we will keep longer than others?

A NY Times article titled “Praise is Fleeting, but Brickbats We Recall” might just have an answer to those questions. It suggests that, based upon research, people tend to remember more negative events and that they hold much more weight in our brain’s capacity. This is based upon both physiological and psychological reasons. Positive and negative information are handled in separate hemispheres of the brains; negative information is processed more systematically, which we tend to reflect more upon. There are also signs of this occurring in animals as well.

Bad events, therefore, take more time to wear off than good ones. In interviewing adults up to fifty years old about their childhoods, researchers found that bad memories were more prevalent, even with people who said they had a happy upbringing. The article continues for several more paragraphs and is a very interesting read, but the main point that I want to bring up is that more often than not, people tend to remember bad events moreso than good ones. 

In relating this to technology, I often ponder if this is why violent video games can have an effect on making kids more violent as they get older. If bad events are more likely to be processed in the brain and committed to memory, wouldn’t it make sense that violent, gory, video games could impression the brain to be more malicious? What are your guys’ thoughts on all of this? Do you believe that bad events tend to be remembered more easily than good ones? And could these bad memories, like violent video games, cause the brain to react in such a way that makes the person more violent and aggressive? 


19 responses to “In with the Bad, Out with the Good

  1. I thin it’s definitely a possibility, although it might be stretching that idea a little bit. Violent and gory video games deal with negative aspects of human existence, whether it’s war, drug addiction, prostitution or all three depending on the video game. However these things are happening in a virtual existence, and even when a “virtual self” is taken into account, these video games are over all providing a positive experience for the user. No one would invest money into buying a video game if it was going to give them bad memories. The brain might confuse this with bad memories, but I almost feel like a child getting their video game taken away would provide for a more negative experience than playing the video game itself.

  2. Just a note, I think your links are broken, it starts off with http://http:// so if you remove an instance of http:// and it should work.

    Anyway, I’ve definitely noticed this phenomenon and it’s great to see it recognized.

    It’s why sites like Yelp and even customer reviews on Amazon can sometimes be inaccurate. People are more likely to review your product or store if they have a negative experience versus a positive experience. The product or store has to be exceptionally great for you to review it positively, or you already have a personal attachment to the product (say if it’s the new iPhone that you’ve been waiting a long time for, or it’s that bar that just alright to everyone else, but because you’re a regular it’s an awesome place). I might be the only one who feels this way, but for some reason or another, there are some products that I don’t necessarily have a compelling need to review. I’m not sure why I feel this way though. Laptops would be an example of this. So even if the laptop is pretty great, I don’t submit reviews of it, which of course influences the overall rating of the laptop. I’m more inclined to review things of a subjective nature I guess, like games or movies, than a product that’s expected to be consistent.

    So as a personal rule and an example, if a product or store has a 3 star rating, I try to add a half or full star to that rating for a more accurate review. Of course, there are exceptions — if that store or product is overwhelming 1 or 2 stars, or if the reviews indicate a more consistent problem rather than the one person out of four thousand that got a dead-on-arrival phone, then I don’t add anything to the rating of the product.

    I agree with Shawn (I think that’s ssberry1?), I feel that violent video game influence in regards to bad memories might be stretching it a bit. The argument (not saying that I agree or disagree with it) for violent video games is that it desensitizes violence and potentially shows a child something among the lines of “hey, shooting random people in Grand Theft Auto is OK, so it’s OK in real life”. Because violent games reward players for those activities, it feels more of a positive reinforcement of negative actions. I wouldn’t necessary count it as a bad memory, although those actions in real life would be considered one (if that person was a victim of those actions).

    • You bring up an interesting phenomenon of customer reviews. Experience certainly seems to confirm that unhappy customers are more likely to leave reviews than happy ones. This is likely why many places will provide an incentive (discount, giveaway, etc.) to encourage more responses and hopefully provide a more accurate measure of the quality of the product or customer experience.

      However, I think emotion not memory is the deciding factor in determining who writes a review on Amazon. If the product works, your emotions and energy are directed towards using and enjoying the product. However, if you are unsatisfied, you likely seek to release your frustrations, and the customer review section provides a fitting opportunity.

  3. I’m not so sure about the connection between violent video games and memory. I for one do not recall my experience playing Grand Theft Auto as a a negative memory. I was playing a game I enjoyed, during a time in my life when I had the time to do so. In that way, I have a positive memory of the experience. Does that go against the rule? Does playing any violent/gory game actually count as a negative experience? It would be interesting to see if they researched how memories of violent games were mapped into the brain.

    • And I doubt that you were playing Grand Theft Auto out of a need to express your real life desire to kill hookers, so I think you’re fine. I feel like the connection between real life violence and video games stems from a third area, where video games provide some sort of virtual release for a set of emotions, and real world violence is taking that release to an extreme and unnecessary level.

  4. I’m not sure if bad memories are remembered better than good memories. It is entirely possible that this is true. It may be because the bad moments that create bad memories were so startlingly awful we can’t forget the memory even if we tried. This may be why children who have been abused or women who have been raped have a difficult time moving past those bad memories to begin creating good ones. While reflecting on my own memories, I feel like I have a fairly equal recollection of both good and bad memories. As far as violent video games potentially producing violent people later in life, again, I’m not sure if this is possible, although there is a significant amount of research suggesting that it does. I do think that violent video games can and do have a damaging effect on the player’s mind, especially if the player is very young, simply due to the subject matter displayed in the game. These games may lead, as mentioned by ssberry1 and jabong1, to desensitizing of violent behaviors and cause the players to think that the things that take place in these games are okay, when they’re really not. I would definitely be interested to see more research about this topic. Since the links in the blog didn’t work, these articles provide some more information about this topic:;

    • I just wanted to mention, there’s also a significance amount of research suggesting that violent videogames do not produce violent people later in life. The claim is similar to violent books and violent movies, just a different medium of expression. Throughout history, people have been afraid about how people could be lead towards certain “bad” beliefs or behavior (e.g. propaganda). It all begins with the idea getting into one’s head. The truth of the matter is, we could read, watch, or play about revolutions, but we wouldn’t necessarily have one unless we are unhappy with how the government treats us.

  5. So yeah, I think it’s totally more common to remember bad events rather than good events. I don’t know much about psychology or physiology, so I suppose don’t have much reason to offer. But I find it interesting that when you lose someone you love, you can’t ever remember being angry with them. This, I think kind of contradicts this notion of remember bad things over good. Am I only one who feels this way?

    Regarding your idea of video games triggering bad memories, I’m not sure I totally agree. I think that kids have fun playing video games (regardless of why) and so when they reflect on their childhood that was full of fine times in front of the tv with a remote controller, I don’t know what bad memories they really have.

    • With regard to violent video games, I agree with your analysis. I don’t think people play games primarily because of the content. Yes, content may be a determining factor, but, I would argue, secondarily rather than primarily. People play games to have fun. Therefore if violent games are “more fun” than the competition, they will likely generate “better” memories.

  6. The idea that bad memories are stored differently than good ones may be accurate, but I don’t think it can be extended to video games. There have been endless attempts to link violent video gaming to violence in later life, but I firmly hold that children know the difference between a game and real life. I, for example, grew up on violent video games like Call of Duty, but still feel guilty even when killing a fly.

  7. I am very skeptical about the information from this article (not yours, but the one that you got your information from). I have never specifically heard that negative memories stay in your mind longer than positive memories. I do, however, know that encoding memories is a result of paying attention. So, if we think of our lives as generally happy, of course we are going to remember the negative events because we specifically pay attention to those rare events. On the contrary, in the course of our generally positive lives, when something extraordinary happens we likely remember those events as well. I think instead of positive and negative memories the more important factor is the significance of the event. So in relation to your video game example, I don’t think that any video game is significant enough to be encoded into the memory as a “negative memory”. More specifically, I continue to hold the opinion that video games have no effect on their future violent behaviors.

    • You made a really good point. The significance of things certainly play a large factor in what I remember. But would you argue, someone living a positive lifestyle would have more negative memories than someone struggling to survive?

  8. I don’t necessarily think that bad memories outweigh the good ones. I once learned in a psychology class that you tend to remember things based on your mood. For example, if you are in a good mood, it’s easier to remember all the good things that have happened to you. but when you’re in a bad mood, you remember things that happened when you were in a bad mood. Something like this literally just happened to me yesterday. Yesterday, I was at work (I work at the DQ in Wickenburg) and I was supposed to get off at 6. Well, the person that was supposed to come in at 6 decided to call my boss at 5:45 and quit. No one else was available to come in and close. So I had to stay and close even though I was supposed to get off then. I was so infuriated last night, and this instance brought to my memory all the other times this has happened to me (which made me even more angry when I remembered when all those other people did that to me). I had forgotten all the other times I’ve experienced similar situations until a similar situation reoccurred. So, do we necessarily remember more bad than good? I don’t know. I guess it depends on what kind of day we are having. Personally, I think I can remember an even amount of good and bad memories. But if you got me started on bad memories, I could probably get rolling and just be stuck on seeking after bad memories.

    As far as the connection to video games goes, I don’t think there is really a connection. When playing those video games, are those really your memories? I mean I use to play tons of video games (some violent) and I remember I played those games, but I have no specific memories of those “violent acts” being played out on my TV screen. Yeah, I could say I remember defeating characters in the fighting games I played. But I have no vivid memories that I could say something like “Yeah I punched him three times, kicked him, then killed him with a final blow to the face”. Those memories just do not exist. So, I don’t really believe there is too much of a connection.

    • I thought your point about remembering things based on the mood you’re in was interesting. I’d never heard that before, but now that I think about it, it is sort of true. I suppose I do associate a happy mood with happy memories and a angry mood with angry memories. Perhaps we do this to justify to mood we’re in, or as a way to stay “happy” or “sad” longer by remembering “happy” or “sad” memories. As far as this translating from violent video game memories to violent actions, I still don’t know if the connection exists. It is possible, and there is lots of evidence suggesting that it does, but I just don’t see anyone being put in a position to one day wake up, out of the blue, having a “violent” mood, then remember their violent video game and have violent actions. Something more than just a violent video game would be necessary to cause this kind of behavior.

  9. I think it makes sense how negative experiences are processed differently than positive ones; however, I’m hesitant to translate that concept to video games. I think that the processing of bad information has to do with its affect on the person receiving it. As Shawn mentions, images and experiences via video games are only affecting the virtual self. I would assume that users dismiss attacks on their virtual selves much more easily than those on their real selves.

  10. I really liked this article and i can see how it would make sense, but i think i tend to agree with Jazmin at least as far as video games go. Personally i don’t think video games are important enough to influence your memories in a positive or negative way. If they are, then i think that’s a symptom of a much larger problem and its not the video games making you violent its because you spend all day playing video games and have no friends or life.

  11. I’d say it has a lot to do with the brain’s methods of absorbing information. Of those, it responds in the most drastic manner to emotional appeals (or pathos in literary terms). Pathos doesn’t necessarily take on a positive or negative context, but rather induces the mind to retain memories linked to emotionally stressful events. In many cases people can remember graphic details about their wedding day just as easily as a victim of physical assault can relive those unwanted memories. But, because the brain catalogues these events it can build a tolerance and become desensitized and thus complacent in the face of similar emotional appeals. So, while the brain may process positive and negative information slightly differently, it really does not make as much of a difference as the magnitude of the emotional response and the frequency of which that response is elicited.

  12. “Bad” and “good” are really subjective concepts. People already said it, but “violent, gory, video games” may be seen as a fun and enjoyable experience. I love videogames because they’re like sports, movies, and hangout places all rolled up into one. I might be biased, but one can argue videogames actually help prevent crime by allowing kids to have an outlet for their frustrations in life. Instead of beating someone up, they can go to videogames and mash on a few buttons. They can act in virtual worlds in escape to reality, especially when they’re depressed:

    I do believe that bad events help people remember, but for good intentions. As the saying goes, “good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.” In bad situations, you gain experience; and experiences are what helps people learn and grow. They become more wise, knowing not make the same mistakes, how to prevent possible problems, or to do things for the better.To me, this is a good thing, not bad. However, I think there is a common misconception in your article a few of us have noticed.

    Memories and emotions are two different subjects altogether. There are cases where people are violent but had a good childhood, and cases where people who grew up in a bad neighborhood end up working hard for the community instead of against it. In the latter case, they want to help people so that they won’t have to experience the same bad things as before, to prevent history from repeating itself. As a result, I don’t think remembering things and becoming more aggressive have a strong correlation with each other.

  13. At first I had no idea where you were going with this one, but then I understood and I think that it is a very creative way of thinking about violent video games. But I am not sure if that would be a main cause for violent video games making kids violent. I think I have learned about what this article is talking about in one of my psychology classes, but not as it relates to video games. So I tend o agree with Jazmin and Kelley on this one. I think there are a lot of other psychological aspects of violent video games, such as modeling, that hold a stronger weight in the effect of these games. I do however think that what the article talks about is true, but I don’t think that it relates to video games because a negative event is not directly happening to you. But you do make a good point and back up your argument, so great job!

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