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Oliver Sacks on Memory

FMSF News Alert - February 11, 2013

Good news!

The current issue of the New York Review of Books features "Speak, Memory," an article by Oliver Sacks that FMSF readers will likely find helpful and perhaps want to share with those who seek to understand false memories.

Select passages:

"It is startling to realize that some of our most cherished memories may never have happened -- or may have happened to someone else. I suspect that many of my enthusiasms and impulses, which seem entirely my own, have arisen from others’ suggestions, which have powerfully influenced me, consciously or unconsciously, and then been forgotten."

"If the last thirty years have seen a surge or resurgence of ambiguous memory and identity syndromes, they have also led to important research -- forensic, theoretical, and experimental -- on the malleability of memory. Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist and memory researcher, has documented a disquieting success in implanting false memories by simply suggesting to a subject that he has experienced a fictitious event. "

"What is clear in all these cases -- whether of imagined or real abuse in childhood, of genuine or experimentally implanted memories, of misled witnesses and brainwashed prisoners, of unconscious plagiarism, and of the false memories we probably all have based on misattribution or source confusion -- is that, in the absence of outside confirmation, there is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory or inspiration, felt as such, from those that have been borrowed or suggested, between what the psychoanalyst Donald Spence calls ‘historical truth’ and ‘narrative truth.’"

Sacks, O. (2013, February 21). Speak, Memory. The New York Review of Books.


The TV series "Do No Harm" has been pulled after two episodes aired with the worst-ever ratings record according to Gary Levin in February 8, 2013 USA Today.

The program was a "remake" of the Jekyll and Hyde story, which likely played a historical role in the social acceptance of multiple personality disorder.

-- J. Bean and Pam