The Seven Sins of Memory





Daniel L. Schacter (Department of Psychology)
Freshman Seminar 23S 4 credits (spring term)      Enrollment:  Limited to 12

How do we remember and why do we forget? Can we trust our memories? How is memory affected by misinformation such as “fake news”? Do smartphones and the Internet help our memories or hurt them? Are traumatic experiences especially well remembered or are they poorly remembered? What are the best ways to study for exams? This seminar will address these and other questions related to the fallibility of memory by considering evidence from studies of healthy people with normal memories, brain-damaged patients who show dramatic forgetting or striking memory distortions, and neuroimaging studies that reveal brain regions and networks that are linked to memory.  The framework for the seminar is provided by the idea that the misdeeds of memory can be classified into seven basic "sins". Three of the memory sins refer to different kinds of forgetting (transience, absent-mindedness, and blocking), three refer to different kinds of distortions or false memories (misattribution, suggestibility, and bias) and the final sin refers to intrusive recollections (persistence). We will consider how the memory sins impact everyday life and discuss the possibility that they can be conceptualized as by-products of adaptive features of memory, rather than as flaws in the system or blunders made by Mother Nature during evolution.  Relatedly, we will also discuss the interplay between remembering past experiences and imagining future experiences, which provides clues regarding the nature and fallibility of memory
See also: Spring 2023