The seven sins of Memory – Daniel Schacter


Daniel Schacter American Psychologist – Professor of Psychology at Harvard University believes Forgetting is an essential function of human memory, allowing it to work efficiently. Some of the experiences we go through and information we learn may need to be remembered, but much is irrelevant and would occupy “storage space”. Hence forgetting becomes one of the important function of memory.

Broadly sins of memory are classified as sins of “omission” and sins of “commission”

Sins of omission

  1. Transience: it involves deterioration of the memory, especially episodic memory. This is due to two factors of: we are able to recall more of recent event than distant, each time to recall the event it is reprocessed in the brain , altering it slightly.
  2. Absent Mindedness: sometimes we do not pay enough attention to things when we do things , so information is considered as trivial and not stored for later use. It is not mainly an error of recollection rather storage.
  3. Blocking: Stored memory is not retrieved as another memory is getting is getting in its way. For example where we nearly know the word but fail to grasp it from the memory.

Sins of commission

  1. Misattribution: information recalled is correct but source of that information si wrongly recalled
  2. Suggestibility: recollections are influenced by the way in which they are recalled, for example, in response to a leading question
  3. Bias: distortion of recollection; person’s opinions and feelings at the time of recollection colors the information
  4. Persistence: Disturbing/ upsetting information that has been stored in memory gets persistently recalled from minor events/embarrassments/memory to extremely distressing memories.

Schacter says: Seven sins aren’t flaw but it is about the costs we pay for a complex system that works exceptionally well most of the time.


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