“THE MEMORY ILLUSION” is the title of a book by psychologist Julia Shaw, Ph.D. The subtitle is “Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory. This is an outstanding book on a very important topic that is well-written by an excellent author, one that is strongly recommend reading by HM. Due to the importance of this topic, many posts will be written based on the book.
There are many misconceptions regarding human memory. This book is devoted to correcting the most egregious of these misconceptions. People tend to think of memory in a very limited sense. It’s thought of as something you need during tests, and as something that fails you when you can’t recall a name. But readers of the healthy memory blog should know that memory is central to all cognition and to our very being.
Consider someone in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. That person no longer remembers who he is, what he did during his life, his immediate family and, of course, his friends. Absent memory there is no you-ness.
There are different types of memory. Semantic memories are our knowledge about the world. Procedural memory is about how different procedures are performed such as riding a bike. Autobiographical memory is about ourselves, and episodic memory is about the specific events or episodes that occurred during our lifetimes.
There is also something important regarding both how our memories work and how to make them work better. This is called metamemory. We need to be aware of how our memories fail, so we do not fall victim to them, and so that we can compensate for their failures and shortcomings.
As Dr. Shaw writes, “Any event, no matter how important, emotional or traumatic it may seem, can be forgotten, misremembered, or even entirely fictitious.”
As she also writes, “Due to our psychological and physiological configuration all of us can come to confidently and vividly remember entire events that never actually took place.”
And as she continues, “The Memory Illusion” will explain the fundamental principles of our memories, diving into the biological reasons we forget and remember. It will explain how our social environments play a pivotal role in the way we experience and remember the world. It will explain how self-concept shapes, and is shaped by our memories. It will explain the role of the media and education in our misunderstanding of the things we think memory is capable of. And it will look in detail at some of the most fascinating, sometimes almost unbelievable, errors, alterations and misapprehensions our memories can be subject to.”