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Daniel Schacter studies the psychological and biological aspects of human memory and amnesia, emphasizing the distinction between conscious and nonconscious forms of memory. Recently, Schacter has focused on the brain mechanisms of memory distortion.

Schacter has written two books, edited six volumes, and published over 200 scientific articles and chapters. His book, Searching for Memory, won the New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year award in 1996 and the 1997 William James Book Award by the American Psychological Association. Schacter's new book, The Seven Sins of Memory, will be published in early 2001 by Houghton-Mifflin.

Schacter has received numerous awards for his research, including the Arthur Benton Award from the International Neuropsychological Association (1989) and the Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences (1991). Schacter received his Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of Toronto, where he studied the psychology of human memory. He became a Professor of Psychology at Harvard University in 1991, and has been Chair of the Department since 1995.


Schacter responds :

12.01.00 Leo Zimmermann asked:
Is it possible to create a false memory simply by power of verbal suggestion? If yes, how?
Schacter's response:
Yes, it is. Many experiments have shown that after people witness a simple scene, such as a car stopping at a stop sign, if they are later asked, "Did the car stop at a yield sign?", some people later claim to remember seeing a yield sign in the original scene. Simply suggesting the yield sign seems to implant it in their memories .
12.01.00 Mary Watson asked:
As we age why do we frequently have trouble remembering familiar words and names? Why at a later time do we suddenly remember them again? Are there ongoing studies to unravel the reason for this behavior?
Schacter's response:
Proper names seem to be the most susceptible to temporary forgetting. Studies suggest that this is, at least in part, because proper names are not inherently meaningful. If I tell you that I am a 'baker,' I am providing you with a lot of information about what I do and how I spend my time. If I tell you that my name is "Baker", I'm not providing any meaningfu information. So, proper names tend to be somewhat isolated in memory and subject to temporary forgetting. I deal with this issue in much more detail in my new book, "The Seven Sins of Memory", which will be published by Houghton-Mifflin in spring 2001.
12.01.00 John J. Cannon asked:
My question is about déjà vu. I have experienced déjà vu. I'm curious if any theories on this matter have been proven, or if the concept has even been researched?
Schacter's response:
Déjà vu is a fascinating but poorly understood phenomenon. It may have to do with being reminded of an experience that is similar but not identical to a present experience, which induces a feeling of false recognition. There are other theories, but very little research because déjà vu occurs relatively rarely.
12.01.00 Neil Mussoline asked:
I'm a high school counselor and one question that has always perplexed me is what is actually happening in the brain when an individual has something 'on the tip of the tongue'? You practically know what you want to recall, but it seems the brain can't quite locate the answer.
Schacter's response:
That's an interesting question, and particularly interesting for me because our group is currently examining the issue using brain imaging. The main thing we're noting is that parts of the brain that are involved in actively monitoring memory are very active during a 'tip of the tongue' state, probably reflecting a person's thoughts and decisions about whether they're coming up with the correct target. But we still don't really understand what causes the tip of the tongue state in the brain. This is another topic I discuss at great length in my forthcoming book on "The Seven Sins of Memory."


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