The Seven Deadly Sins

I wanted to talk more about Schacter’s Sins of Memory as portrayed by LeDoux, based on what I was saying in class – I think it’s a cool thought exercise, and needed a bit more explanation than what I gave in class. I’m going to list, define, and explain each of Schacter’s seven!

1: Transience – inadequately holding onto information

Necessary because, if you want to be able to remember important things, you have to eliminate the chaff so you have enough resources to encode what really needs to be there. Makes me wonder about how the people who have perfect memory manage it, though – more resources? faster encoding? subtle differences in neuronal structure? do they lose something else?

2: Absent-mindedness – attentional deficits

In order to focus on our internal world, we have to be able to switch off external inputs briefly. This seems like a reasonable process from a brain that really can only have one conscious thought process going on at once.

3: Blocking – ToT state

It would be really nice if we could easily retrieve all the memories we get, but it makes sense that memories not commonly activated are harder to to bring to mind – it’s a question of monitoring that you KNOW a piece of information, and actually bringing it up.

4: Misattribution – memory formed in one situation actually was from another

We make tons of connections all the time between different memories. It’s what allows us to generalize, form a representation of our world, and pretty much function on a higher level than mere reaction. It’s not surprising that those connections work both ways.

5: Suggestibility – false memories

It’s much more important to get new information into our brains (from a functional standpoint) than to attend to where they came from. It can lead to errors sometimes, but like 99% of the time that focus allows us to be more efficient.

6: Bias – revise our memory to be consistent with what we think now

Makes sense to make our brains internally consistent. Otherwise you’d have tons of conflicting input that would hinder decision making. Accurate memories are less important than accurate decisions. In that way bias is a lot like suggestibility.

7: Persistence – emotional memories are stronger

If you get attacked by a lion, this will probably help you to avoid that in the future. Emotional memories are emotional because at one point we deemed them vital enough to react strongly to them – it makes sense that therefore they’d be prioritized highly.

2 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins

  1. I think it would an incredible burden to remember everything and I am thankful everyday for the written word. I love TofT when you stop thinking about the piece of information plaguing you and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, it pops into your head. Makes me think that something like an implicit retrieval mechanism was working outside my awareness. Are we completely distracted by consciousness?


  2. I miss this blog!! Derek-great job outlining these sins of memory-it’s great to see a little bit of meta-analysis of these memory issues instead of being so zoomed in on mechanism (especially since mechanistically, we are still so unsure of how these work). Hope everyone is having fun in class!!


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