The Rashomon Effect: The Different Ways an Event is Remembered

Who Is Telling the Truth?

Scientific studies have proven eyewitness testimonies unreliable, with many organizations clamoring against their use in court. However, in many cases, each witness is still telling the truth — or the truth as they perceive it. Although not purposefully deceitful, their stories paint the same event differently. The fact of what occurred can only be found in the combination of all of these perspectives. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as the “Rashomon effect.”

The Rashomon Effect 

The “Rashomon effect” originates from the 1950 Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon. In the movie, four witnesses describe a mystery, and although every witness’s testimony is convincing in its own right, each individual’s account contradicts the rest. None of them worked together to form a collective memory. Philosophically, the film never settles on a specific version of “truth,” thus implying that every person’s performance was, in its way, correct.

Even if you haven’t seen Rashomon, you’ve probably heard of some of the media it inspired—from film to music to novels. For example, in the song “Summer Nights” from the 1978 musical Grease, Sandy and Danny give their friends wildly contrasting accounts of their summer romance, from Sandy’s clear recollections to Danny’s steamy version of events.

Naturally, every individual will have a slightly different version of the same event, influenced by their subjective emotional state, expectations, and life experiences.

Collaboration Trumps Monologue  

My Stories Matter approaches the memory-recording process from a communal perspective. Rather than quarrel over differences in memory, we can celebrate them! Inviting others to collaborate, where c input is added as color-coded text incorporated into the original memory. As others fill in the gaps, you create a richer, more detailed story. 

To quote Akira Kurosawa, “memory gives rise to the imagination.” By remembering the stories we share with others, we imagine new possibilities. Who knows where the truth lies? What matters is that we can share our experiences with those we love.

Ready to create a collective memory with your friends and family? Sign up for free to My Stories Matter Today!


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