9780618219193 / 0618219196

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers


Publisher:Mariner Books



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About the book:

Illustrating decades of research with compelling and often bizarre examples of glitches and miscues, Daniel L. Schacter's The Seven Sins of Memory dusts off an old topic and finds material of both practical and theoretical interest. Chairman of Harvard's Department of Psychology, Schacter knows his stuff and how to present it memorably. Organizing the book by examining each of seven "sins," such as absent-mindedness and suggestibility, Schacter slowly builds his case that these sometimes enraging bugs are actually side effects of system features we wouldn't want to do without. For example, when we focus our attention on one aspect of our surroundings, we inevitably draw attention away from others:

Consider this scenario: if you were watching a circle of people passing a basketball and someone dressed in a gorilla costume walked through the circle, beat his chest, and exited, of course you would notice him immediately--wouldn't you? [Researchers] filmed such a scene and showed it to people who were asked to track the movement of the ball by counting the number of passes made by one of the teams. Approximately half of the participants failed to notice the gorilla.

Scientists concerned about interesting a general audience would do well to use more gorilla suits. Schacter elegantly weaves this curiosity into his text along with clinical stories and frontline research. Recent advances in brain imaging have boosted his field considerably, and the formerly remote psychological territory has yielded plenty of exciting discoveries. Though some of the practical material seems like reheated common sense (Haunted by a traumatic memory? Talk about it.), it's backed up by solid scientific work. Write a note, tie string around the finger, or hire an assistant for reminders, but by all means remember to pick up a copy of The Seven Sins of Memory. --Rob Lightner

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