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The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers Paperback – May 7, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Daniel L. Schacter is chairman of the Psychology Department at Harvard University. He has previously written Searching for Memory, which received praise as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and one of Library Journal’s Best Science and Technology Books of the Year. The book won the American Psychological Association’s William James Book Award and received outstanding reviews in The New Yorker and Publishers Weekly. Schacter was the keynote speaker at the American Psychological Association’s 2000 conference and has appeared on 20/20, NBC’s Sunday Today, the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, and, with Alan Alda, on PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1st edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618219196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618219193
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Sair K on September 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
As a graduate student who studies human memory (and its errors), I picked up this book as a "fun read" to suppliment my academic curiosity. While I am familar with much of the research Dr. Schacter summerizes in this book, I never found the text "too dumbed down" for my taste. In fact, I found it to be a very enjoyable read and discovered many new studies I was previously not familar with. At the same time, I do not think this book is too technical for the average educated reader that may not be familar with memory or even psychological research. Dr. Schacter's book provides an interesting framework for considering many of the everyday (and not so everyday) problems with memory. By combining research from psychology and neuroscience, with anecdotes from popular culture and history "The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers" gives a complete overview that is both stimulating and entertaining.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Roy-DiClemente on February 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
Schacter's book certainly intrigued me. 'Groundbreaking work'... 'first framework'... Unfortunately the reality of the book is far from the snippets on the back cover.
First the good. Essentially Schacter illustrates his 7 sins in a one-sin per chapter style. He describes the sin, illustrates it, often discusses ways to avoid it when necessary, etc. I found he resorted to a few too many anecdotes instead of actual research. Then his last chapter puts forward a 'not-so-groundbreaking' idea that these supposed sins may be either needed or useful from an evolutionary standpoint. The 'sins' he chooses to acknowledge are transience (the fact that we forget over time), absent-mindedness (forgetting due to a failure of attention [often attributed to WM overload, the absent-minded professor], blocking(forgetting of the 'just out of reach type' *G*, misattribution, suggestibility, bias and persistence (that damn tune!).
Unfortunately, Schacter can't seem to decide on the raison d'etre for this book. Is it a self-help guide, a review of recent literature, a medium for advancing a theory? This indecision results in a book that does none of these particularly well. All of the pleasant writing you can fit in 206pgs doesn't leave you feeling like you have a much better understanding of the field.
What annoyed me was the subtitle. With a subtitle like 'How the mind forgets and remembers', I'm afraid I have to conclude that this book does an injustice to the vast field of memory research.
Final word? What does Schacter accomplish?
He points out a few well-known memory problems that everyone can relate to and talks loosely about what researchers think about them. Keep that in mind, and it's worth a looksy at the paperback.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Karen Franklin on December 18, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We're all concerned with memory, right? Schachter knows that, and he has written a lively book of great interest to everyone, professionals and laypersons alike. In a folksy, fun style, he starts out by reviewing the most interesting and pertinent research on the vagaries of memory, including forgetfulness, suggestibility, blocking, persistence, etc. You can liven up a party or even your family meal by telling friends and family about some of the amazing research that he reports in this concise little volume. But he saves the best for last. In the final chapter (I hate to give it away - you can stop reading if you don't want to know the ending), he argues that the foibles of memory that we incessantly complain about are actually virtues, enabling us to function more effectively in the environment. If this is true, we can stop worrying and go with it. I really enjoyed this well-written and educational book, and I've been recommending it to everyone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a frequent reader of popular science, I appreciate the ability of Dr. Schacter to clearly elucidate his points. He smoothly interweaves laboratory results with everyday examples to illuminate his 'seven sins'.
The only minor quibble that I might have is the fact that I didn't really find that his examination of memory cleanly fit into 7 categories. There was a lot of overlap between the items - I'd guess he divided it this way merely to have a clever title for the book.
But that observation is more than offset by the quality of his writing. He was able to summarize the current scientific understanding of memory into a book that is easily understandable to the layman.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Hifza Z. Sakhi on September 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm writing this review and synopsis on Amazon to help readers make sounds decisions about their purchase of this book. Before I delve into the review, I wanted to briefly go over why I chose this book. I started reading "The Seven Sins of Memory" by Daniel Schacter because it focuses on memory, my favorite topic in neuroscience. The book is eye opening and points out many of the memory failures we commonly face in our busy lives, be it forgetting where we put the car keys due to our absent-mindedness or forgetting to recall someone's name, even though it feels as though their name is at the "tip of the tongue" (Schacter 61). Learning about the psychological and neuro-scientific background of these common memory issues was reassuring, because I realized that I am not the only one who faces these memory failures on a daily basis. The methods that Schacter presents to overcome these memory failures, or sins, as Schacter likes to call them, are also very practical and college students may find them especially useful for their studies.

Now that I have given some overview of my motivation, let's talk about the book. In my opinion, this book is an easy read and relatively short (206 pages). The writing is presented in a casual, conversational style. While reading, I felt as though the author was like a knowledgeable professor lecturing to me in a succinct and clear manner, by logically connecting his points, from one to the next. Scientific studies and jargon are presented in such a manner that people like myself, who are enrolled in just the introductory neuroscience course can easily understand them without placing too much strain on my mind.
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