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Searching For Memory: The Brain, The Mind, And The Past Paperback – May 2, 1997
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Daniel Schacter, a Harvard professor of psychology and researcher into the workings of memory and the brain, authoritatively summarizes the most up-to-date scientific knowledge in this controversial field. Many of the advances have come from the study of brain-damaged patients: some remember past events clearly, yet forget the basics of everyday knowledge; others have precisely the reverse affliction. Putting this work together with brain scans and experiments on normal people, a useful understanding has emerged of the connections between the brain and the mind, and of the different types of memory. Schacter also bravely refutes the notion of "recovered memory," arguing persuasively that false memories can be easily created. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Schacter, a Harvard psychology professor, has produced a full, rich picture of how human memory works, an elegant, captivating tour de force that interweaves the latest research in cognitive psychology and neuroscience with case materials and examples from everyday life. Clinical studies of brain-damaged and amnesiac patients reinforce his thesis that memory is not a single faculty, as was long assumed, but instead depends on a variety of systems, each tied to a particular network of brain structures, all acting in concert so we recognize objects, acquire habits, hold information for brief periods, retain concepts and recollect specific events. Aided by numerous reproductions of contemporary paintings that evoke the subjective workings of memory, Schacter explores how we convert fragmentary remains of experience into autobiographical narratives. Implicit memory, at work even when we are unable to fully recall recent events, pervasively, unconsciously colors our perceptions, judgments, feelings and behavior, he maintains. Chapters also cover distortion in memory, repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse, recollection of extreme trauma and memory impairment with aging. This wonderfully enlightening survey enlarges our understanding of the mind's potential.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Memory is vastly complex—from functional or working memory to semantic memory and emotional memory, the brain accomplishes tasks in ways that are both awesome and elegant, by turns simple and straightforward, by turns dazzling and barely describable.
‘Memory’, writ-large, has been described in different ways, along a continuum from dry neuroscience to wet. Philosophers and epistemologists speak in an abstract and theoretical language. Where, exactly, is Locke’s ‘reflection’? And what is it? When they try to get specific (Descartes locating the soul in the pineal gland) they appear quaint and even silly. Neuroscientists, at the other end of the spectrum, come closer to physical realities, identifying different types of neurotransmitter, e.g., and finding connections between those substances and such afflictions as schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.
Psychologists are somewhere in between, utilizing more ‘dry’ experiments (e.g., having subjects listen to a series of words or numbers and then attempting to recall some or all of them under varying conditions) and drawing conclusions that might be verified by more ‘wet’ investigations.
Schacter is a psychologist, but a very knowledgeable one, a psychologist fully aware of the insights and (nearly always tentative) conclusions of contemporary neuroscience. Thus, his book, Searching for Memory, principally concerns psychological research, but psychological research informed by modern neuroscience. The book summarizes a vast amount of such research, focusing on such specific aspects of memory as the identifiable varieties of amnesia.
The book is fascinating throughout, but the non-scientific reader (such as myself) might do well to start with a book like Erik Kandel’s In Search of Memory, where the focus is on neuroscience and where we receive a detailed, historical examination of the evolving discoveries of individuals such as Kandel and his colleagues. You then have the technical background to read Schacter.
Two other points: Schacter is a collector of art which deals with memory and he includes a number of illustrations of such work. While the artwork is suggestive and interesting it is all reproduced in black and white and it is often very difficult to see the actual details which Schacter describes. Second, his book is now nearly twenty years old, and in a field that is progressing at breakneck speed the necessarily-tentative nature of many of the studies that he describes sometimes makes one long for the wetter, more foundational aspects of neuroscience than the drier. The book is very nicely written and consistently engaging.
I'm usually a bookworm, but honestly I found this book to be boring.
A friend of mine from the same class liked it though, so I guess it depends on your preference.
I would suggest reading the first few pages before buying just to see if you like the author's style of writing (which is what I had problems with).