As a psychologist who studies memory, I was fascinated to see how the death of J.D. Salinger brought back a distinct and powerful memory for me. I would like to believe it is a memory shared by a vast number of middle-aged readers, who came of age in the 1960s and early 1970s when the popularity of The Catcher in The Rye was at its zenith.
Dina and Todd, a couple I had just begun to see in therapy, had a major fight and have broken up. Dina's back with her mother and the only communication she is having with Todd is by texting. Although this has been very efficient in figuring out what to do about the dog and their shared possessions, what happens to their memories of each other?
There is a Saucer Magnolia tree in front of the Psychology building at Connecticut College. Each May, its pink and white blossoms unfold to herald the beginning of spring. There is a quiet myth shared among the older faculty that on the last day of classes each year, the final blossom of that Magnolia will drop to the path below, and a short time after we will don our robes for Commencement. Two decades of these ceremonies have filled me with memories...
New research has emerged that shows differences in men's vs. women's memories. These findings reinforce some of what we might have expected regarding which partner in a couple is going to be more likely to remember what the hostess looked like at the party and which one might be the better choice to find the way back home.
This weekend the Jewish holiday of Passover has begun. As Jews around the world sit down to their seder meals, they begin an evening of ritual and the re-telling of the exodus from Egypt. Although there are periodic sips of wine as the story unfolds around the table, there is a long wait before the meal begins. Often the thick salty smell of Matzoh Ball soup pervades the dining room, and while the leader intones the next blessing, memories are stirred in a Proustian flood of images. How does smell memory work and why does it have this compelling emotional power?
Where do the Beatles fit in your personal memories? Do you have a favorite memory of hearing one of their songs, seeing one of their films, or of discussing which Beatle was your favorite? Now the English memory researcher, Martin Conway has created a website where you can log your memories.
Are some of the best days of our lives, the ones that we should burn most deeply into the long-term store of memory, also some of the most uneventful and uncomplicated ones? Should we make more of an effort to remember the quiet contented times along with the roller coaster rides of success and failure, heartbreak and triumphant love?
With Barack Obama's recent historical speech on the continuing racial divide in the country, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my research on people's earliest memories of racial difference and prejudice. The take-home message is earliest encounters linger and will influence our lives, if we let them do so!
Given that I am currently living in England, I had not seen any pictures or read much information about David Paterson, the new governor of New York State, replacing Eliot Spitzer. Today I realized that he is not only the first African-American governor of New York, but he is also legally blind. So what do we know about memory in the blind?
Why are we Americans such suckers for stories of redemption? Will Eliot Spitzer follow the lead of my home state’s disgraced ex-Governor John Rowland (who also resigned) and take to the lecture tour, saying “I made mistakes,” while ending up with a lucrative lobbying or consultant job? If so, the answer lies in our cultural weakness for the happy ending.
In the classic Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson plays a washed-up silent film star. At the end of the film, after shooting her younger lover, she goes mad and surrounded by news cameras, imagines that she is back on a Hollywood set. She announces, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” In this one moment her life of vanity, glamour, and despair is captured. Are there single moments in your life, positive or negative, that capture who you are and what you are all about?
If Barack Obama is elected president, will the night of his election linger in people’s memories like other momentous events in American history, such as the landing on the moon, the assassination of JFK, or the events of 9/11? In the parlance of memory research the latter three events all generated “flashbulb memories” in millions of people who witnessed these epoch-changing milestones on television or learned the news by radio or from another person. Would Obama’s election do the same?