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Pieces of Mind

Michael Corballis

(Author) was at a school reunion and was shocked by his failure to remember many of the stories his old classmates told, even though he seemed to feature in them. At first concerned that dementia setting in, until he discovered that others failed to rem any of the stories he told.

Memory is highly selective. We don't know why some memories stick and others don't. Freud suggested that traumatic memories are repressed, yet holocaust survivors seem to have vivid recall. If anything, we seem to better rem events with strong emotional connections. This is probably not surprising from an evo point of view, because remembering emotional events may help us cope better next time. Point is that memory evolved not so much to provide a faithful record of the past, as to help you deal with the future. And there is probably survival value in altering our memories to boost self-esteem or to overcome embarrassment. More books on Mind

We have episodic memory - memory of events or episodes from our past, and we have semantic memory - facts and skills. Episodic memory can be lost (amnesia from disease or accident) but still retain the learned skill to play a musical instrument.

Scrub jays, little birds which cache food, rem both what they have stashed as well as where. They store both worms and nuts, but dig worms up quickly, and only the nuts if time has passed. They also rebury cached food if another jay is watching, but only if they themselves have stolen food before, showing that they can apparently imagine the future (where another bird nicks their store).

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