Last week, I explained a simple neuroscience technique to reprogram your own brain in less than 60 seconds. Today, I'll explain a technique, based on the same principle, that allows you to quickly reprogram the brains of your co-workers.

To recap last week's post, most people believe that brains are like video camera. While they're aware that they forget things, they assume that the stuff that they do remember is accurately represented in their thoughts.

In fact, when you remember an event, your brain reconstructs that event from pieces and parts, many of which are completely unrelated to the actual event. Your brain fills in details and even major points based upon what seems to "make sense."

Because memory is so malleable, it's easy to make people believe they've experienced events that that never really happened.

For example, in one experiment, researchers asked participants to either do something (like look up a word in a dictionary) or imagine doing it. When interviewed later, most people thought they'd taken the action when actually they'd only imagined it.

Even if the action was something totally bizarre (like proposing marriage to a Pepsi machine), most people still remembered doing it. Even if they were asked only to imagine somebody else doing it, they "remembered" doing it themselves.

Think about that for a second. Using applied neuroscience, you can to get people to "remember" that they proposed marriage to a Pepsi machine.  Some will even insist that you're lying if you tell them that they didn't really do it.

Similarly, it's a neuroscientific fact that you can easily make people forget, question, or ignore things that actually did happen.

For example, eyewitnesses to crimes always tell wildly different stories if interviewed separately. If testimony is taken en masse, though, all the eyewitnesses "remember" whatever story is told first, even if it leaves out much of what they actually saw.

Turns out that the human brain is horrible at noticing things that don't seem important at the time. The following video (which you can ignore if you've seen it before) is a perfect example:


To summarize, because perception is selective and memory is malleable, it is possible to intentionally alter other people's memory of events so that they match whatever you'd prefer them to remember.

Here's how it works. Say you're in a meeting where everyone is supposed to reach consensus on a decision. Various ideas are discussed, a decision is made, and people are assigned various tasks to implement that decision.

As long as the events in that meeting exist only in everyone's memory (as opposed to being recorded on video), those events are subject to change.  You can "create" the collective memory of that meeting by being the first to publish a summary.

The moment you publish your summary, everyone at the meeting will "remember" that what happened is what you described in the summary, even if the summary reaches a conclusion that's substantially different from what was decided at the actual meeting.

I might also note that doing this can be used to document what actually happened to keep collective memory drifting away to something that didn't happen. What's important is that your version becomes the official version.

Which leads me to the secret technique. If a meeting is important to you, write the summary of the meeting--with the results that you want out of the meeting--before the meeting actually takes place.

While the meeting is in session, conspicuously take notes of everything that everyone says. Then email your lightly-edited, prewritten summary to everybody who attended the meeting within a few minutes after the end of that meeting.

It could be argued that this is a form of lying, but that's not the case. Because everyone remembers the events inaccurately, there is no "true" set of events, only randomly scattered memories.  

Reprogramming your co-workers' memories into a structure that works best for you is simply overwriting their inaccurate and incoherent memories with a possibly inaccurate but coherent memory.  Who knows what "really" happened?

As long as nobody else is taking notes (and most people don't), everyone will "remember" your idealized construction of what took place. In fact, you will yourself remember that it took place that way you described it in your summary.

Don't believe me? Give it a try. No, scratch that...