Wednesday, March 26, 2008


This incident is interesting because it shows how little one can get away with in the modern era. Mrs. Clinton makes a claim, but video posted prominently online shows her claim is not what she says it was. An effort to boost her credentials turns into "gotcha." Mrs. Clinton handled it well. She fessed up that she had made a mistake and moved on. Her admission is not likely to prove fatal.

There is at least one lesson from this. If you are a public figure, check your memories against the record. If you don't, others will. Memory is inherently untrustworthy. Psychologists have experimented with implanting false memories and discovered that such so-called recollections endure and are powerful. People insist on things they have never done. If Mrs. Clinton was being truthful, there is reason to believe this is what happened to her. She remembered instructions from the Secret Service, but not the event.

The more we know about memory, the less certain we are about what people recall. That is why it is dangerous to take what a client remembers saying and doing as fact without checking further. Our job is to be accurate and to spare clients embarrassment for their unintended inaccuracies. The human brain is an amazing machine but like all biological machines, it isn't perfect.


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