The Seven Sins of Memory

Daniel L. Schacter

Harvard University

This course will focus on the fallibility of memory. The framework for the course is provided by the idea that the misdeeds of memory can be classified into seven basic "sins": transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence. The course will examine cognitive, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging data that bear on the seven sins, discuss the relevance of several of the sins in legal contexts, and consider the possibility that memory errors can be conceptualized as by-products of adaptive features of memory, rather than as flaws in the system.

General background reading:
Schacter, D.L. (1999). The seven sins of memory: Insights from psychology and cognitive neuroscience. American Psychologist, 54, 182-203.
Schacter, D.L. (2011). The seven sins of memory: How the mind forgets and remembers. New York and Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Lecture 1. Transience, Absentmindedness, and Blocking

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  1. Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test enhanced learning: Taking memory tests improves long-term retention. Psychological Science, 17, 249-255.
  2. Szpunar, K.K., Kahn, N. Y., & Schacter, D.L. (2013). Interpolated memory tests reduce mind wandering and improve learning of online lectures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 110, 6313-6317.
  3. Weingarten, G. (2009). Fatal distraction. Washington Post, March 8, 2009
  4. Anderson, M.C. et al. (2004). Neural systems underlying the suppression of unwanted memories. Science, 303, 232-235.

Lecture 2. Misattribution and Suggestibility

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  1. Schacter, D.L., Israel, L., & Racine, C. (1999). Suppressing false recognition in younger and older adults: The distinctiveness heuristic. Journal of Memory and Language, 40,1-24.
  2. Guerin, S.A., Robbins, C.A., Gilmore, A.W., & Schacter, D.L. (2012). Retrieval failure contributes to gist-based false recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 66, 68-78.
  3. Loftus, E.F. (2004). Memories of things unseen. Current Directions n Psychological Science, 13, 145-147.
  4. St. Jacques, P.L. & Schacter, D.L. (2013). Modifying memory: Selectively enhancing and updating personal memories for a museum tour by reactivating them. Psychological Science, 24, 537-543.

Lecture 3. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Misattribution and Suggestibility: Implications for the Courtroom

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  1. Schacter, D.L. & Slotnick, S.D. (2004). The cognitive neuroscience of memory distortion. Neuron, 44, 149-160.
  2. Moulin, C.J.A., Conway, M.A., Thompson, R.G., James, N., & & Jones, R.W. (2005). Disordered memory awareness: Two cases of persistent deja vecu. Neuropsychologia, 43, 1362-1378.
  3. Schacter, D.L. & Loftus, E.F. (2013). Memory and law: What can cognitive neuroscience contribute? Nature Neuroscience, 16, 119-123.

Lecture 4. Bias and Persistence

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  1. Wilson. A.E. & Ross, M. (2003). The identity function of autobiographical memory: Time is on our side. Memory, 11, 137-149.
  2. Parker, E.S., Cahill, L, & McGaugh, J.L. (2006). A case of unusual autobiographical remembering. Neurocase,12, 35-49.
  3. Sharot,T., Martorella, E.A., Delgado, M.R., & Phelps, E.A. (2007.) How personal experience modulates the neural circuitry of memories of September 11. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 389-394.

Lecture 5. Adaptive Memory and Imagining the Future

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  1. Schacter, D. L., Guerin, S. A., & St. Jacques, P. L. (2011). Memory distortion: An adaptive perspective. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15, 467-474.
  2. Schacter, D.L. (2012). Adaptive constructive processes and the future of memory. American Psychologist, 67, 603-613.
  3. Schacter, D.K., Addis, D.R., Hassabis, D., Martin, V.C., Spreng, R.N., & Szpunar, K.K. (2012). The future of memory: Remembering, imagining, and the brain. Neuron, 76, 677-694.