You think you'll remember every little detail & conversation about your new home build, don't you?

Think again. Our memories are shockingly unreliable. As much as we like to believe we can recall precisely what happened yesterday or last week, the truth is our brains are prone to manipulation. False memories, biases and fallacies mean we often remember events inaccurately or even recall things that never actually happened.

Take witness statements, for example. Multiple people can recall seeing completely different colours of the same vehicle at an accident scene. Our memories are malleable, and open to influence and suggestion. When it comes to something as complex as a new home construction, you'll need to put systems in place to combat your memory's shortcomings.

Keep a site diary, use checklists, and take plenty of photos. Refer to them regularly - don't just assume you'll remember. You'll thank yourself later when you have a complete and accurate record of how your perfect home came to be.

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Photo by Erica Nilsson / Unsplash

Our Memories Are Unreliable and Prone to Errors

Our memories are unreliable and prone to errors. We like to think we can recall events accurately, but the truth is our recollections are often distorted or just plain wrong. This is due to the fallibility of human memory and cognitive biases that creep in, like false memories or the misinformation effect.

For example, studies show people's descriptions of the same event often differ wildly in details like the colour of a perpetrator's clothes or vehicle. Our minds fill in missing details with fabricated information, and we confuse things we imagined with things that actually happened. Over time, these false recollections become cemented as 'memories'.

To combat memory issues on your build site, use tools like:

  • Checklists - Note what needs to be done each day. Tick items off as you go to avoid forgetting important tasks. Refer back to previous checklists to double check what was done when.
  • Photos - Take pictures throughout the day showing the progress of jobs. Photos provide an unbiased record of what the site looked like at different stages. Refer to them if you're unsure about details later on.
  • Site diaries - Jot down what was accomplished each day, any issues that came up, and details about materials or tradespeople on site. Site diaries create an accurate timeline you can look back on to confirm facts.

Using checklists, photos and site diaries may seem tedious, but they provide an objective resource to fact-check your memory. Your recollections of how things happened on site will likely be flawed, so rely on these tools, not your memory alone. Your future self will thank you!

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Photo by Jackson Simmer / Unsplash

How Memory Biases Lead to Inaccurate Recollections

Your memory is notoriously unreliable. As much as you want to believe you'll remember every little detail of building your new home, the truth is our brains are prone to memory biases and inaccuracies.

False memories

Your mind can create memories of events that never actually happened. Police witness statements often vary wildly, with people recalling different colours for the same vehicle. Our memories morph over time to align with our expectations and beliefs.

Selection bias

You'll tend to remember events that confirm what you already believe and forget those that contradict it. So if building the new extension went smoothly, you're more likely to forget the issues you encountered. This selection bias reinforces your preexisting views.

Fading affect bias

Emotional events tend to stick in our memory more than mundane ones. But over time, the emotion fades faster than the memory itself. So while you'll remember the major milestones, the frustration you felt at various setbacks will dull, making the overall experience seem rosier than it was at the time.

The only way to get an accurate record of your build is through checklists, photos, and site diaries. Note the small details, log problems and how they were resolved, track milestones and keep a visual record of the progress. Your memory will fail you, but with these tools you'll have a truer account to look back on for years to come.

Building a new home is a significant life event - make sure you capture it as it really was, biases and all!

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Photo by Rock'n Roll Monkey / Unsplash

Real World Examples of Faulty Eyewitness Testimonies

Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Our memories are prone to biases, errors and inaccuracies that distort how we recall events. Police officers know this all too well from conflicting witness statements.

For example, in a well-known study, participants watched a video of a car accident and then were asked questions about what they saw. When asked about the colour of the car, participants gave different answers: blue, green or grey. There was no definitive colour. Our memories construct details that aren't actually there.

We are also prone to false memories, where we remember events that didn't actually happen. In another study, participants were shown photos of a hot air balloon ride as children. Years later, some participants claimed to vividly remember the ride, even though it never happened. Our memories can invent and manipulate our recollections of the past.

Other memory fallacies include:

  • Misinformation effect: We incorporate misleading information into our memories.
  • Confirmation bias: We search for and believe memories that confirm what we already think is true.
  • Anchoring effect: We rely too heavily on the first information we receive (the "anchor") and fail to adequately adjust for subsequent information.
  • Availability heuristic: We estimate the likelihood of an event based on how easily examples come to mind.

Our memories are malleable and prone to error, so we can't always trust what we think we remember. The key is to use tools like checklists, photos, and site diaries to combat these memory fallacies. They provide an objective record of events that we can turn to, rather than relying on our recollections alone. Our memories may fail us, but these practical tools won't.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

The Importance of Objective Records During Construction

The construction of a new home is an exciting yet stressful process. Your memory will fail you, and false recollections of events and details will creep in, no matter how attentive you try to be. That’s why maintaining objective records during the build is crucial.

Photos provide visual documentation of the progress and final details. Take pictures of the site before construction begins, the foundation and framework as it’s erected, completed sections of the home like roofing/flashings and waterproofing, and the final result. Referring back to photos will jog your memory and provide an accurate timeline of events.

Checklists are useful for keeping track of selections and ensuring nothing gets missed. Make lists for flooring, cabinetry, lighting fixtures, and any other major components. Note the specific products, colours, styles, and quantities chosen for each area of the home. Check items off as they’re installed and do a final check at the end of construction.

A site diary allows you to record daily events, conversations, questions, and observations in your own words. Jot down things like meetings with contractors, meeting resolutions, tweaks to the plans, inspections, and milestone accomplishments. Also note any issues that come up so you have written documentation if needed down the road.

While a new home build should be an exciting time, our memory is prone to distortions and inaccuracies, especially over long, complex projects. By implementing tools like photos, checklists, and a site diary, you’ll have objective records to look back on and reassurance that things were done properly according to your specifications. Relying solely on your memory could mean a unsatisfactory final result or even legal issues. These practical resources are worth the investment to combat memory biases and have peace of mind in your new home.

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Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko / Unsplash

Checklists, Photos and Site Diaries Help Combat Memory Biases

Your memory is fallible and prone to biases. As the build of your new home progresses, it's easy to forget important details or misremember events. To combat this, use tools like checklists, photos, and a site diary.

Checklists ensure nothing gets missed. Make lists for meetings, deliveries, inspections, and deadlines. Check items off as you go to keep on schedule. If disputes arise over what was agreed to, you'll have a written record.

Photos provide visual evidence of the build at each stage. Take pictures of the cleared lot, foundations, framing, wiring, plumbing, and finishing details. Photos jog your memory and give you a timeline of the build's progress. They're also useful for identifying issues early on.

A site diary documents events, conversations, observations, and decisions. Note the date, time, people involved, key points discussed, and any resulting actions or agreements. Referring to your diary will help avoid "false memories" and conflicting recollections of what transpired. For example, if there's disagreement over whether the flooring choice was oak or maple, your diary can clarify.

While memories often feel vivid and true, human recollection is prone to biases and inaccuracies. We fill in missing details, interpret events in self-serving ways, and even "remember" things that never happened. Police know eyewitness testimony can be unreliable for this reason.

Using tools to supplement your memory during the build will give you an accurate record of events. Checklists, photos, and a site diary combat biases like false memories, selective recall, and confirmation bias. You'll have the facts, not just recollections, to refer to if questions or disputes arise. Your documentation may even come in handy if legal issues crop up down the road.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don't just trust your memory—use practical methods to keep it honest during your build. You'll be glad you did.


Our memories are fallible and prone to manipulation. The only way to combat this and have an accurate record of your new home build is to keep meticulous notes.

Start a site diary and update it regularly with details of what's happened each day. Create checklists for each room and tick off items as they're completed. Take photos, lots of them, from all angles so you have a visual timeline of the progress.

While it might seem tedious now, in years to come when your memory has blurred the details, you'll be so glad you made the effort. Your site diary, checklists and photo journal will be an invaluable reminder of the journey you've been on to create your home.

Now you can look back through the records and relive the excitement of watching your dream take shape. Your memory might fail you, but with these tools, the story of your new home build will live on.