Skip to main content

Black History Month: Select Books 30% Off

Harvard University Press - home
Memory Distortion

Memory Distortion

How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past

Edited by Daniel L. Schacter, Gerald D. Fischbach, Joseph T. Coyle, Marek-Marsel Mesulam, and Lawrence E. Sullivan

ISBN 9780674566767

Publication date: 09/30/1997

Hypnosis, confabulation, source amnesia, flashbulb memories, repression--these and numerous additional topics are explored in this timely collection of essays by eminent scholars in a range of disciplines. This is the first book on memory distortion to unite contributions from cognitive psychology, psychopathology, psychiatry, neurobiology, sociology, history, and religious studies. It brings the most relevant group of perspectives to bear on some key contemporary issues, including the value of eyewitness testimony and the accuracy of recovered memories of sexual abuse.

The distinguished contributors to this volume explore the full range of biological phenomena and social ideas relevant to understanding memory distortion, including the reliability of children's recollections, the effects of hypnosis on memory, and confabulation in brain-injured patients. They also look into the activity and role of brain systems, cellular bases of memory distortion, and the effects of emotion and trauma on the accuracy of memory. In a section devoted to the social aspects of memory distortion, additional essays analyze the media's part in distorting social memory, factors influencing historical reconstruction of the collective past, and memory distortion in religion and other cultural constructs. Daniel Schacter launches the collection with a history of psychological memory distortions. Subsequent highlights include new empirical findings on memory retrieval by a pioneer in the field, some of the foremost research on computational models, studies of the relationship between emotion and memory, new findings on amnesia by a premier neuroscientist, and reflections on the power of collective amnesia in U.S. history, the Nazi Holocaust, and ancient Egypt.


  • This is a particularly timely book that compiles the presentations from a 1994 conference sponsored by the Harvard Center for the Study of Mind, Brain, and Behavior. The uniqueness of this volume comes from the diversity of its contributors. It brings together neurobiological, cognitive, psychiatric, neuropsychological, and sociocultural perspectives on the issue of memory distortion. The fundamental theme running through this book is that remembering is a process of reconstruction...The volume competently demonstrates that mind-brain sciences have progressed to a level where scientists of differing ilk may each proffer a different level of analysis...and yet have a meaningful dialogue.

    —Shitij Kapur, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry


  • Daniel L. Schacter is William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Psychology at Harvard University.
  • Lawrence E. Sullivan is Emeritus Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, and former Director of the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press