‘Core Memories’: What Are They?

A concept called “core memories” does not exist in neuroscience or mental health. A Pixar movie, Inside Out, made the idea famous by describing core memories as “significant moments in someone’s life,” which empower different aspects of their personalities.

Despite the film, core memories remain part of our cultural zeitgeist. Today, TikTok videos share special moments with #corememory, and parents of young children often note what experiences they want their children to remember.

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Anthony Quarles, a therapist at Quarles Counseling in Virginia Beach, said nostalgia is behind the popularity of this phrase. As we continue to live through the COVID pandemic, people seem to want to return to when life was safer, more accessible, and more superficial.

Mental Health And Neuroscience Face Challenges With Memories

Memory is not perfect, and experts say memories are inaccurate. Typically, Dudukovic says, people don’t think about the specific, special memories that shape their lives. Some of those ‘core memories’ come from childhood, and we don’t remember much from childhood.”

Emotional Events Are More Memorable

A memory is often formed from events that elicit an emotional response. It’s natural for extreme happiness or anxiety moments to feel etched in your memory. The evidence shows that dynamic events are remembered more than neutral or less emotional ones, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re recognized more accurately.

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“Core Memories” Aren’t Always Happy

Despite the euphoric moments featured on TikTok’s core memories hashtag, Quarles stressed that core memories aren’t always happy. They can be sad, fearful, or angry. Quarles says core memories can also be traumatizing, which makes them “long-lasting memories for a lot of people.” A traumatic event is “marked by a feeling of horror, helplessness, serious injury or the threat of serious injury or death.”

Create Core Memories With These Actions

Dudukovic said, “It’s tough to predict what you will remember, but certain things help make these memories stick and last longer.”

She said it all depends on how you handle these moments. Dudukovic said thinking about moments you hope will become memories and rehearsing them can increase their chances.