The bombing of Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger: every generation has unforgettable events, the shared memory of which can create fleeting intimacy among strangers. These public memories, combined with poignant personal moments--the first day of college, a baseball game with one's father, praise from a mentor--are the critical shaping events of individual lives.
Although experimental memory studies have long been part of empirical psychology, and psychotherapy has focused on repressed or traumatizing memories, relatively little attention has been paid to the inspiring, touching, amusing, or revealing moments that highlight most lives. What makes something unforgettable? How do we learn to share the significance of memories?
David Pillemer's research, brought together in this gracefully written book, extends the current study of narrative and specific memory. Drawing on a variety of evidence and methods--cognitive and developmental psychology, cross-cultural study, psychotherapy case studies, autobiographies and diaries--Pillemer elaborates on five themes: the function of memory; how children learn to construct and share personal memories; memory as a complex interactive system of image, emotion, and narrative; individual and group differences in memory function and performance; and how unique events linger in memory and influence lives. A provocative last chapter, full of striking examples, considers potential variations in memory across gender, culture, and personality. Momentous Events, Vivid Memories is itself a compelling and memorable book.
We all remember, of that there can be no doubt. Whether we remember accurately or inaccurately, in detail or in abstract, are questions that researchers have investigated for many years. However, there is another, more fundamental question: why do we remember at all?...Pillemer teases out these issues and they inevitably lead to a consideration of why we, as a species, have these rather curious mental representations. For Pillemer, part of the answer lies in his suggestion that autobiographical memories and the ability to have them provide a certain sort of social intelligence that could not be delivered in any other way...Autobiographical memories are the things that ground the self, and they ground it in the past. The classification of memories in this book provides a thoughtful insight into how this grounding might take place.
A splendid accomplishment. David Pillemer manages in this brilliant and elegant book to go from the quaintness of those highly personal and flashbulb memories we all have to an understanding of autobiographical memory in the large. The book combines the richness of real life with the rigor of laboratory study. In a way reminiscent of Bartlett's classic Remembering, it opens new vistas on the nature of memory.
Broad in scope and rich in insight, Momentous Events, Vivid Memories celebrates and illuminates the truly important episodes in our lives. David Pillemer shows how these significant moments reveal fundamental aspects of our memories and selves. This fascinating and well-written book deserves a wide audience.
In this impressive book, Pillemer documents a compelling fact about human experience that the psychology of memory has largely ignored: a single event can change a life forever. In doing so he has established a whole new way of thinking about memory, one that will be influential for years to come.
A uniquely rich and complete picture of the function and value of personal event memories in everyday life. The book features an extraordinary collection of examples from personal accounts of meaningful episodes. Pillemer's subtle presentation of his layered theory of personal memory, consisting of imagistic and narrative components, organizes his account of the development of autobiographical memory, and persuasively concludes that personal event memory is an essential component of practical intelligence.
This is a marvelous book--engaging, informative and provocative. Pillemer provides a comprehensive overview of memory for personal experiences that incorporates the psychological research literature and integrates it with clinical, literary and postmodern/feminist theory. It is written at a level that the general reader could easily understand and enjoy, yet scholars working in this area will also learn much that is new.
By emphasizing the importance of specific personal event memories in the lives of individuals, David Pillemer fashions a powerful bridge between the work of cognitive psychologists and researchers working in personality and clinical psychology. Written in clear and engaging prose, Momentous Events, Vivid Memories provides riveting examples of the central role specific memories can play in influenceing our preceptions and actions.
A must read for anyone interested in this all-important function of the mind.
He offers much-needed balance by drawing attention to emerging research on personal event memory His book is replete with detailed examples of personal event memories from literature and psychological research. He deftly interweaves rich narrative with generalizations from research and theory.
- 256 pages
- 6 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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