Memory is knowledge from the past. It is not necessarily knowledge about the
past. – Avishar Margalit
What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and
how you remember it. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
■ Can we know things which are beyond our personal
■ Can our beliefs contaminate our memory?
■ How does memory work?
Let’s test it . . .
■ Listen carefully to this list of words. Try to
remember as many as you can.
True or False?
■ Amnesia makes one unable to remember one’s identity.
■ Unexpected objects generally grab attention.
■ Memory can be enhanced through hypnosis.
■ A confident eyewitness should be sufficient to convict a defendant of criminal
■ Memory works like a video camera.
■ Memory works like a computer hard drive.
Is . . .
Is not . . .
■ The form of most of our knowledge
■ Unlike perception, referring to
things that are currently happening
■ A process which we use to recall
■ A mechanism that allows us to
process new and unique situations
■ Unlike, imagination, what we believe
■ Constructive, dynamic and selective
■ A source of new knowledge
■ Totally reliable
What do we need to understand?
■ An accurate appraisal of the capacities of
memory will allow is to judge best how to use it
to justify knowledge claims and evaluate how it
is being used to justify knowledge claims.
Two kinds of knowledge/memory
■ Procedural Memory – memory of skills – unconscious inarguable
■ Declarative Memory – information and experiences.
This is typically used as justification for belief. – Fallible
Elements of memory
■ Acquisition: the skill, information or experience creates a memory
■ Retention: to what extent one retains the memory in between its acquisition and
■ Retrieval: the recall of the memory
■ Each element offers an opportunity for a memory to be distorted from reality.
■ “Memory is a constructive, dynamic and selective process.” – The ruling of Supreme
Court in the case of State vs. Henderson: How reliable is eyewitness testimony
■ Availablity heuristic: Immediacy – reliability
■ Hindsight bias: I knew it all along!
■ Consistency bias: reinterpretation of our past to be
consistent/acceptable to our present self
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat
■ Neuroscientist Joe LeDoux has experimented on fear memory in rats.
– Tone then shock
– Memory erasing drug
– Kept the memory from being formed
– Erased the memory during recall
■ What does this mean?!!?!?!
Memory and Emotion:
Use in humans: Traumatic Memory
■ Elizabeth Loftus: memory is designed to decay to save us
from haunting ones
– Child soldiers
Emotional memory can last longer than experiential
and informational memory.
■ Elizabeth Loftus: suggestability of memory
■ False memory syndrome
■ Loftus’ questions: “When we have mastered the false memory recipes, we will need
to worry about who controls them. What brakes should be imposed on police,
lawyers, advertisers? More than ever, we’ll need to constantly keep in mind that
memory, like liberty, is a fragile thing.”
Personal Testimony and the shared
■ If individual memory is colored by emotion, fallible and constantly reconstructed,
how can we create a trustworthy record?
■ The more corroborating records, the more viable the conclusion.
■ People do adjust their stories upon hearing others, but in the aggregate it does
become possible to recount what happened as a group.
■ Collective is more reliable than individual
Memory and the other Ways of Knowing
■ Does not operate alone
■ Interacts with emotion, intuition, sense perception, imagination and language not
just in the content but in the process by which we recall, reshape or forget the past
Memory is fallible, but . . .
■ It allows us to build knowledge and skills over time
■ Create our identities as people and as communities
■ We can seek corroboration for knowledge claims based on memory.
– Coherence check: does it correspond to other memories?
– Correspondence check: does it correspond with other forms of evidence?
■ We can aim for greater objectivity in knowledge claims (while allowing for subjectivity
in personal memory)
■ How can memories of the past be checked for accuracy?
■ What are the dangers to knowledge of over-emphasizing the reliability of memory?
■ What are the dangers to knowledge of over emphasizing the unreliability of
■ Post the photo of the greatest moment of your life on social media. If you don’t have
a picture of that moment, go take a picture of where that moment took place and
post it on social media.
■ Dombrowski, Eileen, Lena Rotenberg, and Mimi Bick. IB Theory of Knowledge: For
the IB Diploma. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.
■ "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rat." Idea Explorer. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.