According to Harvard psychology professor Daniel L. Schacter, memory is a complex entity comprising multiple systems and processes. Although memory has been compared to a computer, it has been found not to be merely a device for storing and retrieving information. Rather, in this text, the author refers to the act of remembering as a subjective experience in which memories are records of how one has experienced events rather than replicas of the events themselves.
Breakthroughs in brain imaging as well as individual case studies of amnesiacs, or people with memory disorders caused by physical or emotional problems, have enabled researchers to study the functions of the different parts of the brain. Schacter illustrates this cutting-edge research with contemporary works of art, passages from novels, and individual case studies. Although a comprehensive study of twenty years of work by leading researchers, himself included, SEARCHING FOR MEMORY emphasizes that researchers are still far from completely understanding how human memory works.
Discussion of such highly controversial topics as the recovery of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse point up the relevancy of memory studies to contemporary society. Overall, the author’s emphasis is on the fragile power of memory, its vast capabilities countered by its sometimes devastating limitations. To truly appreciate the complexities of this book and its contents, one must read it for oneself. Ironically, because of the nature of the material, those who read it will risk doubting their own ability to remember it and to remember it accurately.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCII, June 1, 1996, p. 1637.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. XLII, July 26, 1996, p. A8.
Library Journal. CXXI, August, 1996, p. 95.
Nature. CCCLXXXII, August 8, 1996, p. 503.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, July 21, 1996, p. 12.
The New Yorker. LXXII, September 30, 1996, p. 87.
Newsweek. CXXVIII, July 15, 1996, p. 64.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, April 29, 1996, p. 56.
Scientific American. CCLXXV, August, 1996, p. 107.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVI, August 11, 1996, p. 1.