Same Same, But DifferentThe mystery of conflicting memories.

Same Same, But DifferentThe mystery of conflicting memories.

You might have heard the 1,000-year-old story of two blind men wanting to know what an elephant looks like: The one who touches the trunk imagines and describes a very different animal than the one who leans on the stomach, pets the ear, hugs a leg. They argue over who is right, though we know they are both simultaneously right and wrong.

The Rashomon effect—the phenomenon of recounting the same event differently—comes from the title of the 1950 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa, in which four witnesses remember the circumstances around the death of a samurai in four different ways. The samurai’s wife claimed she was sexually assaulted by a bandit, passed out and then awoke to find her husband dead. The bandit claimed he seduced the wife and then killed the samurai in a duel—and ...

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