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Badness of memory every one complains of, but nobody of the want of judgment. ~ François de La Rochefoucauld

Memory is the human faculty by which past events and information are remembered.

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  • Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.
  • Reg, as he insisted on being called, had a memory that he himself had once compared to the Queen Alexandra Birdwing Butterfly in that it was colorful, flitted prettily hither and thither, and was now, alas, almost completely extinct.
  • Everyday experience suggests that highly emotional events are often the most memorable, an observation supported by psychological and pharmacological studies in humans. Although studies in animals have shown that nondeclarative emotional memory (behaviors associated with emotional situations) may be impaired by lesions of the amygdala, little is known about the neural underpinnings of emotional memory in humans, especially in regard to declarative memory (memory for facts that can be assessed verbally). We investigated the declarative memory of two rare patients with selective bilateral amygdala damage. Both subjects showed impairments in long-term declarative memory for emotionally arousing material. The data support the hypothesis that the human amygdala normally enhances acquisition of declarative knowledge regarding emotionally arousing stimuli.
  • Remembrance is neither what happened nor what did not happen but, rather, their potentialization, their becoming possible once again.
  • Memory is fiction. We select the brightest and the darkest, ignoring what we are ashamed of, and so embroider the broad tapestry of our lives.


God gave us memories that we might have roses in December. J. M. Barrie
  • This may be why we appear to learn absolutely nothing from experience, or may, in other words, account for our incoherence: memory does not require that we reconstitute the event, but that we justify it.
  • Look at it out here! It's all falling apart. I'm erasing you, and I'm happy! You did it to me first. I can't believe you did this to me. Clem! Did you hear me? By morning, you'll be gone! The perfect ending to this piece of sh*t story!
  • For more than a century, scientific investigators and clinicians have noted the potential for memory distortions associated with hypnosis. Moll, a noted nineteenth-century authority, commented that "Retroactive hallucinations are of great importance in law. They can be used to falsify testimony. People can be made to believe that they have witnessed certain scenes, or even crimes." (Moll 1889/1958, pp. 345-346). The pioneer hypnosis practitioner, Bernheim, observed, "I have shown how a false memory can cause false testimony given in good faith, and how examining magistrates can unwittingly cause false testimony by suggestion" (Bernheim, 1891/1980, p. 92). Similar findings have been observed by later legal commentators, as will be noted in the following discussion.
  • God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.
  • Developmental changes in imitation were examined in three experiments with 6- to 24-month-old infants. In all experiments, infants in the demonstration condition observed an experimenter perform three specific actions with a puppet. Their ability to reproduce those actions was assessed for the first time during the test in the absence of prior practice. Infants in the control condition received equivalent exposure to the puppet and the experimenter but were not shown the target actions. The results of Experiment 1 showed that 12-, 18-, and 24-month-old infants exhibited clear evidence of imitation following a 24-hour delay (deferred imitation). In addition, the findings of Experiment 1 demonstrated that the 18- and 24-month-old infants reproduced more of the target actions during the test than the 12-month-olds. The results of Experiment 2 showed that 6-month-olds performed as well as 12-month-olds when they were tested in the absence of a delay (immediate imitation). Finally, the results of Experiment 3 showed that, with additional exposure to the target actions, even 6-month-old infants exhibited deferred imitation following a 24-hour delay. Taken together, these findings have important implications for current theories of the development of imitation and memory during the first 2 years of life.
  • Historically, infants and very young children were thought incapable of explicit memory. As a result of changes in theoretical perspective and methodological developments, this assumption was challenged in the latter part of the 20th century. Substantial progress was made in describing age-related changes in explicit memory in the first two years of life. These developments permitted the first steps toward construction of a neuro-developmental account of the changes. By considering the timing and course of development of the neural substrate responsible for explicit memory we are able to bring greater specificity to the question “what develops?” Thus far, behavioral and electrophysiological methods (event-related potentials: ERPs) have revealed both individual and age-related variability in encoding and in consolidation and storage processes; the variability is systematically related to variability in long-term explicit memory. Suggestions are made for additional research to further our understanding of relations between brain and behavioral development in the first years of life.
  • Coincident with developments in the temporal-cortical explicit memory network, long-term recall abilities are newly emergent late in the first year of human life. We recorded event-related potentials (ERPs) in 9-month-olds as an index of the integrity of the neural substrate underlying a task thought to reflect explicit memory, namely, deferred imitation. ERP measures of recognition memory 1 week after unique laboratory experiences predicted whether and how much infants recalled of the experiences 1 month later. The findings further imply that memory storage and consolidation processes are a major source of variability in long-term recall memory late in the first year of life.
  • The precise nature of the engram, the physical substrate of memory, remains uncertain. Here, it is reported that RNA extracted from the central nervous system of Aplysia given long-term sensitization training induced sensitization when injected into untrained animals; furthermore, the RNA-induced sensitization, like training-induced sensitization, required DNA methylation. In cellular experiments, treatment with RNA extracted from trained animals was found to increase excitability in sensory neurons, but not in motor neurons, dissociated from naïve animals. Thus, the behavioral, and a subset of the cellular, modifications characteristic of a form of nonassociative long-term memory in Aplysia can be transferred by RNA. These results indicate that RNA is sufficient to generate an engram for long-term sensitization in Aplysia and are consistent with the hypothesis that RNA-induced epigenetic changes underlie memory storage in Aplysia.
  • Memories are like flagstones, time and distance work upon them like drops of acid.
    • Ugo Betti, Delitto all’isola delle Capre, 1946, as translated by Henry Reed, 1961.
  • After Gutenberg, realms of everyday life once ruled and served by Memory would be governed by the printed page. ...A man could now refer to the rules of grammar, the speeches of Cicero, and texts of theology, canon law, and morality without storing them in himself.
    The printed book... [was] superior in countless ways to the internal invisible warehouse in each person. ...When they were equipped with indexes, as ...sometimes the sixteenth century, then the only essential feat of Memory was to remember the order of the alphabet. Before the end of the eighteenth century the... index... had become standard. The technology of Memory retrieval... played a much smaller role in the higher realms of... knowledge. Spectacular feats of Memory became mere stunts.
  • God gives us dreadful gifts. The most dreadful of all is memory.
  • A baby is expected. A trip is expected. News is expected. Forgetfulness is expected. An invitation is expected. Hope is expected. But memories are not expected. They just come.
  • Memory is the storehouse in which the substance of our knowledge is treasured up.
  • When you've played a memory over and over in your head a few hundred times, it becomes difficult to know what you actually saw at the time and what details your mind has edited in after the fact.
  • I am a miser of my memories of you
    And will not spend them.
    • Witter Bynner, Coins, in The Beloved Stranger: Two Books of Song & a Divertisement for the Unknown Lover, 1919.

Remembering the times of our lives: memory in infancy and beyond (2007)


Bauer, Patricia J. (2007). Remembering the times of our lives: memory in infancy and beyond. Hillsdale, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 0-8058-5733-8. OCLC 62089961.

  • "The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget!"
    "You will, though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it."
    - Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872/1982, p. 94, emphasis in original)
    In his brief dialogue between the King and the Queen - two of the chess piece sovereigns of the Looking Glass House - Lewis Carroll captured the complementary sides of the coin we term memory The King, having experienced a "horrifying" event (being set on a table by Alice, a relative giant whom the King could neither see nor hear), expresses absolute faith in the durability of memory. The Queen, in contrast, presents a less flattering view of the capacity: that without some intervention (a memorandum), even a salient event will be forgotten. In a rare instance, the reality experienced by the King and Queen on their side of the looking glass is reflected on the drawing room side as well. Memory is at times seemingly and at other times frustratingly fallible. What is at times seemingly indelible and at other times frustratingly fallible. What is more, in true looking glass fashion, the same past experience can at one moment impinge on consciousness unbidden and at another elude deliberate attempts to recollect it.
    • p. 3.
  • Whereas memories of events and public records are potentially faithful impressions of what happened at a particular place and a particular time, autobiographical memories and personal diaries "...are infused with the idiosyncratic perspectives emotions, and thoughts of the person doing the remembering" (Wheeler, 2000, p. 597).
    • p.20
  • Another feature of autobiographical memories is that they entail a sense of conscious awareness that one is reexperiencing an event that happened at some point in the past (Rubin, 1998; Tulving, 1985a, 1985b, 1993; Wheeler, 2000).
    • p.22
  • Indeed for James, "Memory requires more than the mere dating of a fact in the past. It must be dated in my past...I must think that I directly experienced its occurrence (p. 612).
    • p.22
  • One of the more consistent predictors of later recall of events is their uniqueness or distinctiveness. Specifically, events that are unique tend to be better remembered, relative to single episodes of events that occur more frequently (e.g., Brewer, 1988; Wagenaar, 1986). For example, in White's (1982, 1989, 2002) examinations of how own memories from the year 1979, the uniqueness of an event t the time it was experienced was strongly related to how well it was remembered: The less unique the event, the worse was White's recall of it. This pttern may be accounted for by interference schematization, or both. Interference from other, similar experiences makes it more difficult to retrieve the features of any specific experience. Similarly, schematization occurs as the features that are common across experiences are abstracted and the representation condensed to include only the common elements. The result is that, "...repeated encounters of similar kinds blend and the details of any single event may be forgotten..." (Barclay % DeCooke, 1988, p. 106).
    • p.36
  • The affective intensity of an event is another predictor of later recall: Events that are "affectively charged," or have high levels of emotionality associated with them, either positive or negative, tend to be well recalled (e.g., Brewer, 1988; Thompson, 1998; Wagenaar, 1986; White, 2002).
    • p.36


It is possible for one with a well-trained memory to compose clearly in an organized fashion on several different subjects. Once one has the all-important starting-place of the ordering scheme and the contents firmly in their places within it, it is quite possible to move back and forth from one distinct composition to another without losing one's place or becoming confused. ~ Mary Carruthers
He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and the images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written upon it. ~ Cicero
  • A happy childhood can't be cured. Mine'll hang around my neck like a rainbow, that's all, instead of a noose.
  • To live in hearts we leave behind
    Is not to die.
  • Though sands be black and bitter black the sea,
    Night lie before me and behind me night,
    And God within far Heaven refuse to light
    The consolation of the dawn for me,—
    Between the shadowy burns of Heaven and Hell,
    It is enough love leaves my soul to dwell
     With memory.
    • Madison Cawein, "Monochromes", in Undertones (Boston: Copeland and Day, 1896), p. 34.
  • The ability to recall information about the past is thought to emerge in the 2nd half of the 1st year of life. Although there is evidence from both cognitive neuroscience and behavioral psychology to support this hypothesis, there is little longitudinal evidence with which the question can be addressed. Infants' memory abilities were tested between the ages of 9 and 16 months using elicited and deferred imitation. Infants' memory for events was tested after delays ranging from 1 to 6 months. The results suggest that at 9 months of age, infants are able to store and retrieve representations over delays of as many as 4 weeks but not over long delays. In contrast, 10-month-olds have at their disposal a system that allows encoding and retrieval of event representations over delays of up to 6 months. These results support the idea that the system that underlies long-term ordered recall emerges near the end of the 1st year of life.
  • He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty (of memory) must select places and form mental images of the things they wish to remember and store those images in the places, so that the order of the places will preserve the order of the things, and the images of the things will denote the things themselves, and we shall employ the places and the images respectively as a wax writing-tablet and the letters written upon it.
    • Cicero, De oratore, II, lxxxvi, 351-4, English translation by E.W. Sutton and H. Rackham from Loeb Classics Edition
  • It is therefore necessary that memorable things should be committed to writing, (the witness of times, the light and the life of truth,) and not wholly betaken [i.e., committed] to slippery memory which seldom yields a certain reckoning.
    • Edward Coke, Les Reports de Edward Coke (1660), vol. 1, p. 3. Spelling modernized.
  • The purpose of this review is to evaluate the effects of chronic stress on hippocampal-dependent function, based primarily upon studies using young, adult male rodents and spatial navigation tasks. Despite this restriction, variability amongst the findings was evident and how or even whether chronic stress influenced spatial ability depended upon the type of task, the dependent variable measured and how the task was implemented, the type and duration of the stressors, housing conditions of the animals that include accessibility to food and cage mates, and duration from the end of the stress to the start of behavioral assessment. Nonetheless, patterns emerged as follows: For spatial memory, chronic stress impairs spatial reference memory and has transient effects on spatial working memory. For spatial learning, however, chronic stress effects appear to be task-specific: chronic stress impairs spatial learning on appetitively motivated tasks, such as the radial arm maze or holeboard, tasks that evoke relatively mild to low arousal components from fear. But under testing conditions that evoke moderate to strong arousal components from fear, such as during radial arm water maze testing, chronic stress appears to have minimal impairing effects or may even facilitate spatial learning. Chronic stress clearly impacts nearly every brain region and thus, how chronic stress alters hippocampal spatial ability likely depends upon the engagement of other brain structures during behavioral training and testing.
  • The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.
    • Thalassa Cruso, To Everything There is a Season, 1973.

The Book of Memory (1990)


Mary Carruthers, (1990). The Book of Memory (first ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38282-3. (limited preview on Google Books)

  • It is possible for one with a well-trained memory to compose clearly in an organized fashion on several different subjects. Once one has the all-important starting-place of the ordering scheme and the contents firmly in their places within it, it is quite possible to move back and forth from one distinct composition to another without losing one's place or becoming confused.
    • p.7
  • Since each phantasm is a combination not only of the neutral form of the perception, but of our response to it (intentio) concerning whether it is helpful or hurtful, the phantasm by its very nature evokes emotion. This is how the phantasm and the memory which stores it helps to cause or bring into being moral excellence and ethical judgement.[28]
    • p.67
  • One must have a rigid, easily retained order, with a definite beginning. Into this order one places the components of what one wishes to memorize and recall. As a money-changer ("nummularium") separates and classifies his coins by type in his money bag ("sacculum," "marsupium"), so the contents of wisdom's storehouse ("thesaurus," "archa"), which is the memory, must be classified according to a definite, orderly scheme.
    • pp.81-82
  • A long text must always be broken up into short segments, numbered, then memorized a few pieces at a time.
    • p.82
  • Even what we hear must be attached to a visual image. To help recall something we have heard rather than seen, we should attach to their words the appearance, facial expression, and gestures of the person speaking as well as the appearance of the room. The speaker should therefore create strong visual images, through expression and gesture, which will fix the impression of his words. All the rhetorical textbooks contain detailed advice on declamatory gesture and expression; this underscores the insistence of Aristotle, Avicenna, and other philosophers, on the primacy and security for memory of the visual over all other sensory modes, auditory, tactile, and the rest.
    • pp.94-95

"The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity" (February 2001)


Cowan, N (February 2001). "The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity". Behav Brain Sci. 24 (1): 87–114, discussion 114–85. doi:10.1017/S0140525X01003922. PMID 11515286

  • Attentional focus on one coherent scene does not in itself explain how a complex sequence can be recalled. To understand that, one must take into account that the focus of attention can shift from one level of analysis to another. Cowan: The magical number 4 BEHAVIORAL AND BRAIN SCIENCES (2001) 24:1 93 McLean and Gregg (1967, p. 459) described a hierarchical organization of memory in a serial recall task with long lists of consonants: “At the top level of the hierarchy are those cueing features that allow S to get from one chunk to another. At a lower level, within chunks, additional cues enable S to produce the integrated strings that become his overt verbal responses.”
    • p.93
  • Broadbent (1975) noted that the ability to recall items from an array grows with the visual field duration: “for the first fiftieth of a second or so the rate of increase in recall is extremely fast, and after that it becomes slower.” He cites Sperling’s (1967) argument that in the early period, items are read in parallel into some visual store; but that, after it fills up, additional items can be recalled only if some items are read (more slowly) into a different, perhaps articulatory store. Viewed in this way, the visual store would have a capacity of three to five items, given that the performance function rapidly increases for that number of items. However, the “visual store” could be a central capacity limit (assumed here to be the focus of attention) rather than visually specific as the terminology used by Sperling seems to imply.
    • p.96
  • The ability to apprehend a small number of items at one time in the conscious mind can be distinguished from the need to attend to items individually when a larger number of such items are presented. This point is one of the earliest to be noted in psychological commentaries on the limitations in capacity. Hamilton (1859) treated this topic at length and noted (vol. 1, p. 254) that two philosophers decided that six items could be apprehended at once, whereas at least one other (Abraham Tucker) decided that four items could be apprehended. He went on to comment: “The opinion [of six] appears to me correct. You can easily make the experiment for yourselves, but you must be aware of grouping the objects into classes. If you throw a handful of marbles on the floor, you will find it difficult to view at once more than six, or seven at most, without confusion; but if you group them into twos, or threes, or fives, you can comprehend as many groups as you can units; because the mind considers these groups only as units, – it views them as wholes, and throws their parts out of consideration. You may perform the experiment also by an act of imagination.” When the experiment actually was conducted, however, it showed that Hamilton’s estimate was a bit high. Many studies have shown that the time needed to count a cluster of dots or other such small items rises very slowly as the number of items increases from one to four, and rises at a much more rapid rate after that. Jevons (1871) was probably the first actual study, noting that Hamilton’s conjecture was “one of the very few points in psychology which can, as far as we yet see, be submitted to experiment.” He picked up handfuls of beans and threw them into a box, glancing at them briefly and estimating their number, which was then counted for comparison. After over a thousand trials, he found that numbers up to four could be estimated perfectly, and up to five with very few errors
    • p.102.
  • Other theorists (Hummel & Holyoak 1997; Shastri & Ajjanagadde 1993) have applied this neural synchronization principle in a way that is more abstract. It can serve as an alternative compatible with Halford et al.’s (1998) basic notion of a limit on the complexity of relations between concepts, though Halford et al. instead worked with a more symbolically based model in which “the amount of information that can be represented by a single vector is not significantly limited, but the number of vectors that can be bound in one representation of a relation is limited” (p. 821). Shastri and Ajjanagadde (1993) formulated a physiological theory of working memory very similar to Lisman and Idiart (1995), except that the theory was meant to explain “a limited-capacity dynamic working memory that temporarily holds information during an episode of reflexive reasoning” (p. 442), meaning reasoning that can be carried out “rapidly, spontaneously, and without conscious effort” (p. 418). The information was said to be held as concepts or predicates that were in the form of complex chunks; thus, it was cautioned, “note that the activation of an entity together with all its active superconcepts counts as only one entity” (p. 443). It was remarked that the bound on the number of entities in working memory, derived from facts of neural oscillation, falls in the 7 6 2 range; but the argument was not precise enough to distinguish that from the lower estimate offered in the present paper. Hummel and Holyoak (1997) brought up similar concepts in their theory of thinking with analogies. They defined “dynamic binding” (a term that Shastri & Ajjanagadde also relied upon to describe how entities came about) as a situation in which “units representing case roles are temporarily bound to units representing the fillers of those roles” (p. 433). They estimated the limit of dynamic binding links as “between four and six” (p. 434). In both the approaches of Shastri and Ajjanagadde (1993) and Hummel and Holyoak (1997), these small limits were supplemented with data structures in long term memory or “static bindings” that appear to operate in the same manner as the long-term working memory of Ericsson and Kintsch (1995), presumably providing the “active superconcepts” that Shastri and Ajjanagadde mentioned.
    • pp. 109-110


  • One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted -
    One need not be a House -
    The Brain has Corridors - surpassing
    Material Place -
  • Human beings are so constituted that we take for granted the fact that a direct awareness of our past selves is preserved... We take for granted the durability of the individual self. ...But ...the preservation of memories as great an exercise in magic as the transfer of memories from the dead to the living. ...How the magic works still a dark mystery. ...When once the technology exists to read and write memories from one mind to another, the age of mental exploration will begin in earnest. ...[W]e will look at nature directly through the eyes of the elephant, the eagle and the whale. We will... feel in our own minds the pride of the peacock and the wrath of the lion. That magic is no greater than the magic that enables me to see the rocking horse through the eyes of the child who rode it sixty years ago.


  • Vague memories hang about the mind like cobwebs.
  • μεταβάλλει δυσδαιμονία:
τὸ δὲ μετ᾽ εὐτυχίας κακοῦ-
σθαι θνατοῖς βαρὺς αἰών.
  • English: Misery changes; life is hard for mortals, when they are treated badly after happiness. (trans. Robert Potter, 1938)
  • Euripides, Iphigenia in Taurus, line 1,121.


We have all forgot more than we remember. ~ Thomas Fuller
  • Infants devote more visual fixation to novel than to previously exposed targets, thereby indicating both discriminative ability and recognition memory. Since the earliest demonstrations of infants' preferences for novel visual stimulation (Fantz 1964; Saayman, Ames, & Moffett 1964), a number of explorations of infant recognition memory have been conducted. Variables studied have included age (Fagan, Fantz, & Miranda 1971; Wetherford & Cohen 1973), dcegree and type of stimulus variation (Cohen & caron 1968; Fagan 1970, 1971, 1973; Pancratz & Cohen 1970), sources of forgetting (Fagan 1973), and conceptual development (Caron, Caron, Caldwell, & Weiss 1973; Fagan 1972).
  • We have all forgot more than we remember.


Immediate serial recall and memory span tasks are two common tools used to assess working memory in humans (Baddeley, 1996). In such tasks, the participant is presented with a series of stimuli, and required to recall this stimulus string in sequential order (Baddeley, 1996). In these tasks, the likelihood of correct recall is directly related to the length of the stimulus string, and by manipulating the length of this string, the participant’s working memory capacity (memory span) can be assessed (Baddeley, 1996). ~ Mathew H. Gendle & Michael R. Ransom
  • Counterfactual imaginings are known to have far-reaching implications. In the present experiment, we ask if imagining events from one's past can affect memory for childhood events. We draw on the social psychology literature showing that imagining a future event increases the subjective likelihood that the event will occur. The concepts of cognitive availability and the source-monitoring framework provide reasons to expect that imagination may inflate confidence that a childhood event occurred. However, people routinely produce myriad counterfactual imaginings (i.e., daydreams and fantasies) but usually do not confuse them with past experiences. To determine the effects of imagining a childhood event, we pretested subjects on how confident they were that a number of childhood events had happened, asked them to imagine some of those events, and then gathered new confidence measures. For each of the target items, imagination inflated confidence that the event had occurred in childhood. We discuss implications for situations in which imagination is used as an aid in searching for presumably lost memories.
  • Working memory is a fundamental aspect of executive cognition that is thought to encompass three primary mental processes: 1) the access of information, 2) “on-line” operation(s) on this information, and 3) the production of a motor output response based on these operations (Goldman-Rakic, 1987). At present, several distinct theoretical conceptualizations of working memory exist within the cognitive science literature (reviewed in Kimberg, D’Esposito, & Farah, 1998). This lack of consensus may be due, in part, to the functional complexity of working memory, which includes aspects of rehearsal, maintenance, short term storage, attention, and executive control (Kimberg, et al., 1998). Working memory is widely accepted as being dependent on the lateral frontal cortex (Fuster, 1997; Goldman-Rakic, 1987; Owen, et al., 1998; 1999; Owen, 2000), and plays an important role in the temporal coordination of guided behavior via the perception-action cycle (Fuster, 2000).
    Immediate serial recall and memory span tasks are two common tools used to assess working memory in humans (Baddeley, 1996). In such tasks, the participant is presented with a series of stimuli, and required to recall this stimulus string in sequential order (Baddeley, 1996). In these tasks, the likelihood of correct recall is directly related to the length of the stimulus string, and by manipulating the length of this string, the participant’s working memory capacity (memory span) can be assessed (Baddeley, 1996).
  • Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
    Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.
  • Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
    My heart untravell'd fondly turns to thee;
    Still to my brother turns, with ceaseless pain,
    And drags at each remove a lengthening chain.
  • In two experiments, subjects heard simple action statements (e.g., “Break the toothpick”), and, in some conditions, they also performed the action or imagined performing the action. In a second session that occurred at a later point (10 min, 24 h, 1 week, or 2 weeks later), subjects imagined performing actions one, three, or five times. Some imagined actions represented statements heard, imagined, or performed in the first session, whereas other statements were new in the second session. During a third (test) phase, subjects were instructed to recognize statements only if they had occurred during the first session and, if recognized, to tell whether the action statement had been carried out, imagined, or merely heard. The primary finding was that increasing the number of imaginings during the second session caused subjects to remember later that they had performed an action during the first session when in fact they had not (imagination inflation). This outcome occurred both for statements that subjects had heard but not performed during the first session and for statements that had never been heard during the first session. The results are generally consistent with Johnson, Hashtroudi, and Lindsay’s (1993) source monitoring framework and reveal a powerful memory illusion: Imagining performance of an action can cause its recollection as actually having been carried out.


We ought, then, to set up images of a kind that can adhere longest in memory. And we shall do so if we establish similitudes as striking as possible; if we set up images that are not many or vague but active; if we assign to them exceptional beauty or singular ugliness; if we ornament some of them, as with crowns or purple cloaks, so that the similitude may be more distinct to us; or if we somehow disfigure them, as by introducing one stained with blood or soiled with mud and smeared with red paint, so that its form is more striking, or by assigning certain comic effects to our images, for that, too, will ensure our remembering them more readily. ~ Rhetorica Ad Herrenium
  • We ought, then, to set up images of a kind that can adhere longest in memory. And we shall do so if we establish similitudes as striking as possible; if we set up images that are not many or vague but active; if we assign to them exceptional beauty or singular ugliness; if we ornament some of them, as with crowns or purple cloaks, so that the similitude may be more distinct to us; or if we somehow disfigure them, as by introducing one stained with blood or soiled with mud and smeared with red paint, so that its form is more striking, or by assigning certain comic effects to our images, for that, too, will ensure our remembering them more readily.
    • Rhetorica Ad Herrenium, III, xxii (1st century BCE).
  • We can remember minutely and precisely only the things which never really happened to us.
    • Eric Hoffer, "Thoughts of Eric Hoffer", Including: 'Absolute Faith Corrupts Absolutely,'" The New York Times Magazine (April 25, 1971), p. 55, 57.
  • It is important to state here -- though evidence will be considered in detail later on -- that all three women have either had "dreams" or normal recollections of having been shown, at later times, tiny offspring whose appearance suggests they are something other than completely human that they are in fact hybrids, partly human and partly what we must call, for want of a better term, alien. It is unthinkable and unbelievable -- yet the evidence points in that direction. An ongoing and systematic breeding experiment must be considered one of the central purposes of UFO abductions.
    • Budd Hopkins, in Intruders: The Incredible Visitations at Copley Woods , p. 130.
  • I am wading in the ruins of was.
    • Siri Hustvedt, The Blazing World (2014), "Harriet Burden: Notebook O". London: Sceptre, 2014, p. 229.




  • In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as recollecting. ...
    If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing. It would take as long for us to recall a space of time as it took the original time to elapse, and we should never get ahead with our thinking. All recollected times undergo, accordingly, what M. Ribot calls foreshortening; and this foreshortening is due to the omission of an enormous number of the facts which filled them. ...
    A thing forgotten on one day will be remembered on the next. Something we have made the most strenuous efforts to recall, but all in vain, will, soon after... saunter into the mind... [T]he sphere of possible recollection may be wider than we think, and... apparent oblivion is no proof against possible recall under other conditions. ...
    [M]ost of what happens actually is forgotten. ...
    When memory begins to decay, proper names are what go first ...[C]ommon qualities and names have contracted an infinitely greater number of associations ...than the names of most of the persons ...Their memory is better organized. ...'Organization' means numerous associations; and the more numerous the associations, the greater the number of paths of recall. For the same reason... words... which form the grammatical framework of all our speech, are the very last to decay. ...
    We have M. Ribot says, not memory so much as memories. The visual... tactile... muscular... auditory memory may all vary independently... and different individuals may have them developed in different degrees. As a rule, a man’s memory is good in the departments in which his interest is strong; but those departments are apt to be those in which his discriminative sensibility is high. ...[D]ifferences in men’s imagining power... the machinery of memory must be largely determined thereby. ...
    Mr. Galton his English Men of Science, has given ...cases showing individual variations in the type of memory... Some have it verbal. Others... for facts and figures, others for form. Most say... [it] must first be rationally conceived and assimilated. ...
    Setting the mind to remember... involves a continual minimal irradiation of excitement into paths which lead thereto... the continued presence of the thing in the 'fringe' of our consciousness. Letting the thing go involves withdrawal of the irradiation, unconsciousness of the thing, and... obliteration of the paths. ...
    [T]hings are impressed better by active than by passive repetition. ...[I]t pays better to wait and recollect by an effort from within, than to look at the book again.


  • For all of us, explicit memory makes it possible to leap across space and time and conjure up events and emotional states that have vanished into the past yet somehow continue to live in our minds.
  • Human memory is one of the worst data-collection devices in the world.
    • Jonah Keri, Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong (2007), p. 96.
  • Memory is merely the process of tuning into vibrations that have been left behind in space and time.

History, Memory, and the Law (August 2002)


Thomas R. Kearns (August 2002). “History, Memory, and the Law”. University of Michigan Press.

  • To turn from history to memory is to move from the disciplined effort to marshal evidence about the “truth” of the past to the slippery terrain on which individuals and groups invent traditions and record partisan versions of the past on the basis of which they seek to construct particular conditions in the present. “Memory,” Pierre Nora writes,
    is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. It remains in permanent evolution, open to the dialectic of remembering and forgetting, unconscious of its successive deformations, vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation. . . . [H]istory on the other hand, is the reconstruction . . . of what is no longer. . . . History, because it is an intellectual and secular production, calls for analysis and criticism. . . . At the heart of history is a critical discourse that is antithetical to . . . memory.
    • Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire,” “Representation 26 (1989): 8-9; as quoted on pp.9-10.
  • Acts of commemoration are the very stuff of politics; in and through our political process we decide who or what should be remembered or memorialized and in what ways. As David Thelen argues, “[M]emory, private and individual, as much as collective and cultural is constructed, not reproduced. . . . [T]his construction is not made in isolation but in conversations with others that occur in the contexts of community, broader politics, and social dynamics.” Should law and legal process lend themselves to these process? Can they do so without compromising values central to law’s integrity? These normative questions have so far driven scholarship of law and memory.
    • David Thelen, “Memory and American History,” Journal of American History 75 (1989): 1119; as quoted on pp.10-11.
  • To talk about law and collective memory is almost immediately to conjure images of the show trial where individual rights and truth were sacrificed in the service of political goals. Mark Osiel notes that
    acts asserting legal rights or officially stigmatizing their violation have often become a focal point for the collective memory of whole nations. These acts often become secular rites of commemoration. As such, they consolidate shared memories with increasing deliberateness and sophistication. These events are both “real” and “staged.” In this regard, they seem to problematize the very distinction between true and false representations of reality.
    • Mark Osiel, Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory, and the Law (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, 1997), p.6; as quoted on p.11.
  • In the classic, liberal conception, justice requires impartial adjudication of claims and accusations .The sole question with which law should concern itself is whether, according to the evidence presented and the rules of proof, someone “did” what they were accused of doing or some event did or did not happen. How the result serves particular collective memories is an illegitimate consideration, the introduction of which may distort those values. Playing our larger issues in culture and politics through the trial seems, if we take the liberal view seriously, a misuse of the judicial process.
    But the relationship of law and collective memory need not simply be discussed in terms of these normative concerns, namely whether it is right intentionally to use legal processes in the effort to create or vindicate collective memory. We might also approach the relationship between law and collective memory in a more descriptive vein and ask how and where law remembers as well as how and where it helps us remember.
    • Nora, “Between History and Memory,” 13. Footnote 59, p.12; as quoted on pp.11-12.


  • Emotional events often attain a privileged status in memory. Cognitive neuroscientists have begun to elucidate the psychological and neural mechanisms underlying emotional retention advantages in the human brain. The amygdala is a brain structure that directly mediates aspects of emotional learning and facilitates memory operations in other regions, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Emotion–memory interactions occur at various stages of information processing, from the initial encoding and consolidation of memory traces to their long-term retrieval. Recent advances are revealing new insights into the reactivation of latent emotional associations and the recollection of personal episodes from the remote past.
  • Ah, tell me not that memory
    Sheds gladness o'er the past ;
    What is recalled by faded flowers,
    Save that they did not last?
    Were it not better to forget,
    Than but remember and regret?
  • Memory has many conveniences, and, among others, that of foreseeing things as they have afterwards happened.
  • [T]he fact that no-one has any memory of being born - which if a fetus can indeed feel pain would be expected to be a very painful process indeed - suggests that there is a great deal of difference between what might look like pain, and what the experience in fact constitutes.
  • Our memory changes every single time it's being 'recorded'. That's why we can incorporate new information into old memories and this is how a false memory can form without us realising it.
  • Two experiments are reported in which subjects viewed films of automobiled accidents and then answered questions about events occurring in the films. The question, “About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” elicited higher estimates of speed than questions which used the verbs collided, bumped, contacted, or hit in place of smashed. On a retest one week later, those subjects who received the verb smashed were more likely to say “yes” to the question, “Did you see any broken glass?”, even though broken glass was not present in the film. These results are consistent with the view that the questions asked subsequent to an event can cause a reconstruction in one's memory of that event.
  • What happens when people witness an event, say, a crime or accident, and are later exposed to new information about the event? Two decades of research have been devoted to the influence of new information on the recollections of such witnesses. An all-too-common finding is that after receipt of new information that is misleading in some way, people make errors when they report what they saw. New, post-event information often becomes incorporated into a recollection, supplementing or altering it, sometimes in dramatic ways. New information invades us, like a Trojan horse, precisely because we do not detect its influence. Understanding how we become tricked by revised data about a witnessed event is a central goal of this research.
    Current research showing how memory can become skewed when people assimilate new data utilizes a simple paradigm. Participants first witness a complex event, such as a simulated violent crime or automobile accident. Subsequently, half the participants receive new, misleading information about the event. The other half do not get any misinformation. Finally, all participants attempt to recall the original event. In a typical example of a study using this paradigm, participants saw a simulated traffic accident. They then received written information about the accident, but some people were misled about what they saw. A stop sign, for instance, was referred to as a yield sign. When asked whether they originally saw a stop or a yield sign, participants given the phony information tended to adopt it as their memory; they said they saw a yield sign. In these and many other experiments, people who had not received the phony information had much more accurate memories. In some experiments, the deficits in memory performance following receipt of misinformation have been dramatic, with performance differences as large as 30% or 40%.
  • A growing body of studies reveals the conditions that make people particularly susceptible to the influence of misinformation. For example, people are particularly prone to having their memories modified when the passage of time allows the original memory to fade. Put another way, with a long interval between the event and the misinformation, the injection of misinformation becomes relatively easy. In its weakened condition, memory - like the disease-ridden body-becomes especially vulnerable to repeated assaults on its very essence. This finding leads up to a principle, the discrepancy detection principle for determining when changes in recollection will occur:
    Recollections are more likely to change if a person does not immediately detect discrepancies between post-event information and memory for the original event.
  • It is possible not to think about something for a long time, even something unpleasant that happened to you. But what's been claimed in these repressed-memory cases is something, by definition, that's too extreme to be explained by ordinary forgetting and remembering. They're saying that in order to go on in life, you had to wall off this memory, because it would be too painful to live with. Then finally you go into therapy and crack through the repression barrier and out comes this pristine memory. But there really is no credible scientific support for that notion.
  • Therapists probably can't ethically do it, and they may have anti-deception provisions in their standards of conduct. But bad governments, bad people, they don't have requirements of conduct. When we recently published a study about planting false memories among U.S. soldiers, I was worried we were putting out a recipe for how you can do horrible things to somebody and then wipe their memory away.
  • I collaborated on a brain imaging study in 2010, and the overwhelming conclusion we reached is that the neural patterns were very similar for true and false memories. We are a long way away from being able to look at somebody's brain activity and reliably classify an authentic memory versus one that arose through some other process.
  • Jonas did not want to go back. He did not want the memories, didn't want the honor, didn't want the wisdom, didn't want the pain. He wanted his childhood again, his scraped knees and ball games. He sat in his dwelling alone, watching through the window, seeing children at play, citizens bicycling home from uneventful days at work, ordinary lives free of anguish because he had been selected, as others before him had, to bear their burden. But the choice was not his. He returned each day to the Annex room.


Memories fade, like looking through a fogged mirror. ~ MGMT
An outstanding memory is often associated with weak judgment. ... If, thanks to memory, other people's discoveries and opinions had been kept ever before me, I would readily have reached a settled mind and judgment by following other men's footsteps, failing as most people do to exercise my own powers. ~ Montaigne
Remembering’s dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. “The Past Tense,” I suppose you’d call it. Memory’s so treacherous. One moment you’re lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss… the next, it leads you somewhere you don’t want to go. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp ambiguous shapes of things you’d hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children I suppose. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can’t face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? ~ Alan Moore
  • "Abductees," Eva said, "are souls that have, for their individual purposes and reasons, chosen the probability of physical form." But through their experiences they are "regaining their memory of source . . . The process of abduction is one form of such, of regaining memory." The abduction "experience itself," Eva said, "is a mechanism to remove" the "structures that impede the reconnection with source," and to purify the physical vehicle in such a way to serve to regain better memory and to bring knowledge to others."
    • John E. Mack in Abduction: Human Encounters With Aliens, pp. 258-259
  • Certainly it is one of the most blessed things about "the faith that is in Christ Jesus," that it makes a man remember his own sinfulness with penitence, not with pain — that it makes the memory of past transgressions full of solemn joy, because the memory of past transgressions but brings to mind the depth and rushing fullness of that river of love which has swept them all away as far as the east is from the west. Oh, my brother, you cannot forget your sins; but it lies within your own decision whether the remembrance shall be thankfulness and blessedness, or whether it shall be pain and loss forever.
    • Alexander Maclaren, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 408.
  • My friend, picture to yourself this — a human spirit shut up with the companionship of its forgotten and dead transgressions! There is a resurrection of acts as well as of bodies. Think what it will be for a man to sit surrounded by that ghastly company, the ghosts of his own sins! and as each forgotten fault and buried badness comes, silent and sheeted, into that awful society, and sits itself down there, think of him greeting each with the question, "Thou too? What! are ye all here? Hast tl1ou found me, O mine enemy?" and from each bloodless, spectral lip there tolls out the answer, the knell of his life," I have found thee, because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord."
    • Alexander Maclaren, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 408.
  • I am perplexed and overcome,/strangely touched and shaken/by memories/bright and pale/and, like a breath of air,/so gentle.
    • Drunk from the Bitter Truth: The Poems of Anna Margolin translated from Yiddish by Shirley Kumove (2017)
  • … and what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions until all you can remember is a name.
  • Memories fade, like looking through a fogged mirror.
  • An outstanding memory is often associated with weak judgment. ... If, thanks to memory, other people's discoveries and opinions had been kept ever before me, I would readily have reached a settled mind and judgment by following other men's footsteps, failing as most people do to exercise my own powers.
    • Montaigne, Essays, as translated by M. A. Screech, pp. 32-33.
  • Remembering’s dangerous. I find the past such a worrying, anxious place. “The Past Tense,” I suppose you’d call it. Memory’s so treacherous. One moment you’re lost in a carnival of delights, with poignant childhood aromas, the flashing neon of puberty, all that sentimental candy-floss… the next, it leads you somewhere you don’t want to go. Somewhere dark and cold, filled with the damp ambiguous shapes of things you’d hoped were forgotten. Memories can be vile, repulsive little brutes. Like children I suppose. But can we live without them? Memories are what our reason is based upon. If we can’t face them, we deny reason itself! Although, why not? We aren’t contractually tied down to rationality! There is no sanity clause! So when you find yourself locked onto an unpleasant train of thought, heading for the places in your past where the screaming is unbearable, remember there’s always madness. Madness is the emergency exit… you can just step outside, and close the door on all those dreadful things that happened. You can lock them away… forever.
  • What thousands and millions of recollections there must be in us! And every now and then one of them becomes known to us; and it shows us what spiritual depths are growing in us, what mines of memory.
    • William Mountford, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, 1895, p. 407.
  • The people of the Qur’an (those who recite and those who memorize the Qur’an) will be in the highest level (in Heaven) from amongst all of the people with the exception of the Prophets and Messengers. Thus, do not seek to degrade the people of the Qur’an, nor take away their rights, for surely they have been given a high rank by Allah.


  • I agree as to the doubtful value of competitive examination. The qualities which you really want, viz., self-control, self-reliance, habits of accurate thought, integrity and what you generally call trustworthiness, are not decided by competitive examination, which test little else than the memory.


  • 'The method of loci', an imaginal technique known to the ancient Greeks and Romans and described by Yates (1966) in her book The Art of Memory as well as by Luria (1969). In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject 'walks' through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by 'walking' through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established (Ross and Lawrence 1968, Crovitz 1969, 1971, Briggs, Hawkins and Crovitz 1970, Lea 1975), as is the minimal interference seen with its use.
  • Demonstrations of limitations in the way humans process and store information have generated much controversy among researchers in the cognitive sciences. A major theme concerns the capacity of working memory. Separate verbal, spatial, and visual object working memory systems can be distinguished (1-3), but similar estimates of their capacities have been established. These estimates have sometimes been made in terms of “magical numbers,” which have ranged from seven to about four words, numbers, or locations (4). In line with these results, recent studies suggest that it is possible to retain information of up to four objects in visual working memory (5-9).
    • Olsson Henrik, Poom Leo, Treisman Anne (2005). "Visual memory needs categories". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 102(24): 8776–8780. doi:10.1073/pnas.0500810102. PMC 1150822. PMID 15937119.


  • Young and old participants were evaluated on tests of frontal lobe function, recognition memory, and memory for temporal and spatial information. Older participants showed significant impairments on memory for temporal order, and this impairment was found to correlate with deficits on frontal lobe tests measuring spontaneous flexibility but not reactive flexibility. However, spatial memory showed no evidence of an age effect. An interpretation of this latter finding based on the differential availability of contextual cues is ruled out because similar results were obtained when spatial memory was assessed in a different context to that used during learning. The researchers concluded that memory for temporal order and spatial memory are affected differentially by age. Theoretical interpretations of this difference are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Things are revealed through the memories we have of them. Remembering a thing means seeing it—only then—for the first time.
    • Cesare Pavese, Il mestiere di vivere: Diario 1935–1950, 28 January 1948.
  • If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.
  • The pure memories given
    To help our joy on earth, when earth is past,
    Shall help our joy in heaven.
    • Margaret Junkin Preston, reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 407.


  • It is notorious that the memory strengthens as you lay burdens upon it, and becomes trustworthy as you trust it.


  • In proportion as the present supplants the past, states of consciousness disappear and are effaced. After a short time but little remains; the greater part are veiled in an oblivion whence they never emerge, and they take with them the quantity of duration inherent in each; consequently, the elimination of states of consciousness is an elimination of time. Now, the abbreviated processes... suppose such elimination. If, to reach a distant recollection, it were necessary to traverse the entire series of intervening terms, memory would be impossible, because of the length of time required for the operation.
    • Théodule-Armand Ribot, Les Maladies de la mémoire (1881) Tr. William Huntington Smith, Diseases of memory, an essay in the positive psychology (1882), pp. 60-61, The International Scientific Series, Vol. XLI.
  • We arrive, then, at this paradoxical conclusion: that one condition of memory is forgetfulness. Without the total obliteration of an immense number of states of consciousness, and the momentary repression of many more, recollection would be impossible. Forgetfulness, except in certain cases, is not a disease of memory, but a condition of health and life. We discover here a striking analogy with two essential vital processes. To live is to acquire and lose; life consists of dissolution as well as assimilation. Forgetfulness is dissolution.
    • Théodule-Armand Ribot, Les Maladies de la mémoire (1881) Tr. William Huntington Smith, Diseases of memory, an essay in the positive psychology (1882), p. 61, The International Scientific Series, Vol. XLI.
  • Knowledge of the past (and here we are led back to the functions of vision) may... be compared to a picture of a distant landscape, at once deceptive and exact, since its very exactitude is derived from illusion. If we could compare our past, as it has really been, fixed before us objectively, with the subjective representation which we have in memory, we would find the copy formed upon a particular system of projection: each of us is able to find his way without trouble in this system, because he has himself created it.
    • Théodule-Armand Ribot, Les Maladies de la mémoire (1881) Tr. William Huntington Smith, Diseases of memory, an essay in the positive psychology (1882), pp. 61-62, The International Scientific Series, Vol. XLI.
  • I can't compete with a memory
    How can I fight with someone that I can't see?
    There's two of us but it feels like three
    I wish her ghost would just let us be
    Boy you're everything I ever wanted
    But I got to let you go 'cause this love is
  • Thou first, best friend that Heav'n assigns below
    To sooth and sweeten all the cares we know
  • Sweet Memory! wafted by thy gentle gale,
    Oft up the stream of Time I turn my sail.
  • All people have a natural curiosity about their own memory. This curiosity was tweaked several years ago by reports in the popular press of recovered memories from early childhood. These reports also renewed a long-standing debate bout whether infants can actually remember for any length of time. Some researchers argue that infants possess only a primitive memory system that cannot encode specific events (Mandler, 1998), that early development is characterized by "infantile amnesia" (the absence of enduring memories; Pillemer & White, 1989), that children cannot remember events until they can rehearse them by talking about them (Nelson, 1990), and that children younger than 18 months are incapable of representation (Piaget, 1952); others argue that the behavior of older infants and children is shaped by their earlier experiences (Watson, 1930) and that adult personality is shaped by memories of events that occurred in infancy (Freud, 1935). Surprisingly, this debate has been waged in the absence of date from infants themselves.
    This article reviews new evidence that infants' memory processing does not fundamentally differ from that of older children and adults. not only can older children remember an event that occurred before they could talk, but even very young infants can remember an event over the entire infantile-amnesia period if they are periodically reminded.
    • Rovee-Collier, Carolyn (1999). "The Development of Infant Memory". Current Directions in Psychological Science. 8 (3): 80–85. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00019. ISSN 0963-7214. P.80
  • After 24 weeks, it is difficult to say that the fetus experiences pain because this, like all other experiences, develops postnatally along with memory and other learned behaviours.
    • "Fetal Awareness". Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 4. Information for women and parents, p.20
  • It is hard now to leave a play and remember a line because they are all in prose.
    • Sarah Ruhl, "," 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write (2014)


  • Women and elephants never forget an injury.
    • Saki, Reginald in Russia and Other Sketches, 1910.
    • A variant: Women and elephants never forget - Dorothy Parker, Ballad of Unfortunate Animals, in Death and Taxes, 1931.
  • I have the most ill-regulated memory. It does those things which it ought not to do and leaves undone the things it ought to have done.
  • Converging lines of evidence indicate that stress either before or after learning influences memory. Surprisingly little is known about how memory is affected when people learn while they are stressed. Here, we examined the impact of learning under stress in 48 healthy young men and women. Participants were exposed to stress (socially evaluated cold pressor test) or a control condition while they learned emotional words and neutral words that were either conceptually associated with or unrelated to the stressor. Memory was assessed in free recall and recognition tests 24h after learning. Learning under stress reduced both free recall and recognition performance, irrespective of the emotionality and the stress context relatedness of the words. While the effect of stress was comparable in men and women, women outperformed men in the free recall test. These findings show a memory impairing effect of learning under stress in humans and challenge some assumptions of current theories about the impact of stress around the time of learning on memory formation.
  • Stress before retention testing impairs memory, whereas memory performance is enhanced when the learning context is reinstated at retrieval. In the present study, we examined whether the negative impact of stress before memory retrieval can be attenuated when memory is tested in the same environmental context as that in which learning took place. Subjects learned a 2-D object location task in a room scented with vanilla. Twenty-four hours later, they were exposed to stress or a control condition before memory for the object location task was assessed in a cued-recall test, either in the learning context or in a different context (unfamiliar room without the odor). Stress impaired memory when assessed in the unfamiliar context, but not when assessed in the learning context. These results suggest that the detrimental effects of stress on memory retrieval can be abolished when a distinct learning context is reinstated at test.
  • To conclude, our results suggest that stress can interfere with our ability to integrate context information into a memory trace. These findings might improve our understanding of the pathogenesis of psychiatric disorders, such as the post-traumatic stress disorder in which the failure to connect the traumatic event with the appropriate (temporal and spatial) contextual information is a common pathological hallmark (Rauch et al. 2006).
  • Though yet of Hamlet, our dear brother's death,
    The memory be green.
  • Remember thee!
    Yea, from the table of my memory
    I'll wipe away all trivial fond records.
  • Die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year.
  • I cannot but remember such things were,
    That were most precious to me.
  • If a man do not erect in this age his own tomb ere he dies, he shall live no longer in monument than the bell rings, and the widow weeps... ...An hour in clamour and a quarter in rheum.
  • I count myself in nothing else so happy
    As in a soul rememb'ring my good friends;
    And, as my fortune ripens with thy love,
    It shall be still thy true love's recompense.
  • Looking on the lines
    Of my boy's face, my thoughts I did recoil
    Twenty-three years; and saw myself unbreech'd,
    In my green velvet coat, my dagger muzzled,
    Lest it should bite its master, and so prove,
    As ornaments oft do, too dangerous.
  • Reminiscences make one feel so deliciously aged and sad.
  • The Right Honourable Gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests, and to his imagination for his facts.
    • Richard Brinsley Sheridan, reply in the House of Commons. Thomas Moore, Memoirs of the Life of the Right Honourable Richard Brinsley Sheridan, 3d ed. (1825), vol. 2, chapter 21, p. 471. "A curious instance of the care with which he treasured up the felicities of his wit appears in the use he made of one of those epigrammatic passages … which, in its first form, ran thus:—'He certainly has a great deal of fancy, and a very good memory; but, with a perverse ingenuity, he employs these qualities as no other person does—for he employs his fancy in his narratives, and keeps his recollection for his wit:—when he makes jokes, you applaud the accuracy of his memory, and 'tis only when he states his facts that you admire the flights of his imagination.' "After many efforts to express this thought more concisely, and to reduce the language of it to that condensed and elastic state, in which alone it gives force to the projectiles of wit, he kept the passage by him patiently some years,—till he at length found an opportunity of turning it to account, in a reply, I believe, to Mr. Dundas, in the House of Commons, when, with the most extemporaneous air, he brought it forth, in the … compact and pointed form [above] (p. 471).
  • Memory is the storage of acquired knowledge for later recall. Learning and memory form the basis by which individuals adapt their behavior to their particular external circumstances. Without these mechanisms, it would be impossible for individuals to plan for successful interactions and to intentionally avoid predictably disagreeable circumstances.
    The neural change responsible for retention or storage of knowledge is known as the memory trace, or engram. Generally, concepts, not verbatim information, are stored. As you read this page, you are storing the concept discussed, not the specific words. Later, when you retrieve the concept from memory, you will convert it into your own words. It is possible, however, to memorize bits of information word by word.
  • The axe forgets, but the (cut) log does not
    • Traditional (Shona; Zimbabwe)[1]
      • Original Shona: Chinokanganwa idemo; chitsiga hachikanganwe
      • Subsequently popularized by Maya Angelou as "The Ax forgets; the tree remembers."[2]
  • A man's real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else is he poor.
  • Memory, for me, is often a home where the furniture has been rearranged one too many times.
    • Clint Smith, How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, 2021. (p. 239)
  • A model for visual recall tasks was presented in terms of visual information storage (VIS), scanning, rehearsal, and auditory information storage (AIS). It was shown first that brief visual stimuli are stored in VIS in a form similar to the sensory input. These visual “images” contain considerably more information than is transmitted later. They can be sampled by scanning for items at high rates of about 10 msec per letter. Recall is based on a verbal receding of the stimulus (rehearsal), which is remembered in AIS. The items retained in AIS are usually rehearsed again to prevent them from decaying. The human limits in immediate-memory (reproduction) tasks are inherent in the AIS-Rehearsal loop. The main implication of the model for human factors is the importance of the auditory coding in visual tasks.
  • In vain does memory renew
    The hours once tinged in transport's dye;
    The sad reverse soon starts to view,
    And turns the past to agony.
  • Converging evidence and new research methodologies from across the neurosciences permit the neuroscientific study of the role of sleep in off-line memory reprocessing, as well as the nature and function of dreaming. Evidence supports a role for sleep in the consolidation of an array of learning and memory tasks. In addition, new methodologies allow the experimental manipulation of dream content at sleep onset, permitting an objective and scientific study of this dream formation and a renewed search for the possible functions of dreaming and the biological processes subserving it.


  • Some researchers have reported that high levels of stress are associated with improved memory in the laboratory (Goodman et al. 1991b; Warren & Swartwood, 1992), some have reported that high levels of stress are associated with poorer memory (Bugental et al., 1992; Merritt, Ornstein, & Spicker, 1994). For example, Howe, Courage, & Peterson (1994) found no relationship between the amount of stress (reported by the parents) and the amount of information recalled by their children either 3-5 days or 6 months after an emergency room procedure. By contrast, Goodman et al. (1991b) found that children who showed higher levels of arousal during a medical procedure reported the incident more accurately than children who simply had a washable tattoo applied.
  • Within what we might call “classical cognitive science” (Piattelli-Palmarini, 2001) it has always been understood that the mind/brain is to be considered a computational-representational system. Yet, not all cognitive scientists have ever (fully) agreed with this assessment (e.g., Rumelhart et al., 1986). Actually, as of today, large parts of the field have concluded, primarily drawing on work in neuroscience, that neither symbolism nor computationalism are tenable and, as a consequence, have turned elsewhere. In contrast, classical cognitive scientists have always been critical of connectionist or network approaches to cognitive architecture (e.g., Fodor and Pylyshyn, 1988), and recent work on memory (e.g., Gallistel and King, 2009; Gallistel and Matzel, 2013; Gallistel and Balsam, 2014) has been adding fuel to the fire. Recent work in neuroscience (Chen et al., 2014; Johansson et al., 2014; Ryan et al., 2015) has now provided first tentative neurobiological evidence for the cognitive scientists' doubts about the synapse as the locus of memory in the brain.
  • If we believe that memories are made of patterns of synaptic connections sculpted by experience, and if we know, behaviorally, that motor memories last a lifetime, then how can we explain the fact that individual synaptic spines are constantly turning over and that aggregate synaptic strengths are constantly fluctuating? (Bizzi and Ajemian, 2015, p. 91)
  • …episodic memories are the only ones with direct reference to the past. As Tulving (1999, p.15) points out: “episodic memory is the only form of memory that, at the time of retrieval, is oriented toward the past: retrieval in episodic memory means ‘mental time travel’ through and to one’s past. All other forms of memory, including semantic, declarative and procedural memory, are, at retrieval oriented to the present”
  • “Not only is it impossible to compare our memories with the events of which they are the memories; but because the present is, as it were, always slipping away from us into the past we cannot even compare our memories with what purport to be the effects of the original events (or, more properly, with our inferences from those ‘effects’). For what I am comparing must always be, not the memory itself but my memory of that memory. Suppose that today I remember building, a short while ago, a castle in the sand. Tomorrow I go to the beach and there it is. I say ‘Yes just as I remembered it yesterday’. But how do I then know it is just as I remembered it yesterday? The sight of the sand castle itself may well influence my memory of my previous remembering” (Brian Smith, 1966, p.27, italics original)
  • Thomas Suddendorf and Michael Corballis (2007, p. 301-302) write: “The fact that episodic memory is fragmentary and fragile suggests that its adaptiveness may derive less from its role as an accurate record of personal history than from providing a “vocabulary” from which to construct planned future events (and perhaps to embellish events of the past). It may be part of a more general toolbox that allowed us to escape from the present and develop foresight, and perhaps create a sense of personal identity. Indeed, our ability to revisit the past may be only a design feature of our ability to conceive of the future”


  • When comparing human memory and computer memory it is clear that the human version has two distinct disadvantages. Firstly, as indeed I have experienced myself, due to ageing, human memory can exhibit very poor short term recall.
  • Memory, then, is a necessary part of the logical faculty. … The proposition A = A must have a psychological relation to time, otherwise it would be At1 = At2.
  • As the dew to the blossom, the bud to the bee,
    As the scent to the rose, are those memories to me.
    • Amelia B. Welby, "Pulpit Eloquence", in Poems (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1860), p. 184.
  • Memory is kinder than reality, it always has been. We make our memories; we knit them together out of disparate events; we define ourselves by what we make.
  • But how is Mneme dreaded by the race,
    Who scorn her warnings and despise her grace?
    By her unveil'd each horrid crime appears,
    Her awful hand a cup of wormwood bears.
    Days, years mispent, O what a hell of woe!
    Hers the worst tortures that our souls can know.
    • Phillis Wheatley, "On Recollection", Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773.
  • Out of the cradle endlessly rocking,
    Out of the mocking-bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
    Out of the Ninth-month midnight,
    Over the sterile sands, and the fields beyond, where the child, leaving his bed, wander’d alone, bare-headed, barefoot,
    Down from the shower’d halo,
    Up from the mystic play of shadows, twining and twisting as if they were alive,
    Out from the patches of briers and blackberries,
    From the memories of the bird that chanted to me,
    From your memories, sad brother—from the fitful risings and fallings I heard,
    From under that yellow half-moon, late-risen, and swollen as if with tears,
    From those beginning notes of sickness and love, there in the transparent mist,
    From the thousand responses of my heart, never to cease,
    From the myriad thence-arous’d words,
    From the word stronger and more delicious than any,
    From such, as now they start, the scene revisiting,
    As a flock, twittering, rising, or overhead passing,
    Borne hither—ere all eludes me, hurriedly,
    A man—yet by these tears a little boy again,
    Throwing myself on the sand, confronting the waves.
    I, chanter of pains and joys, uniter of here and hereafter,
    Taking all hints to use them—but swiftly leaping beyond them,
    A reminiscence sing.
    • Walt Whitman, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking, from Leaves of Grass, 1860 edition.
  • Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us.
  • In memory everything seems to happen to music.
  • The vapours linger round the Heights,
    They melt, and soon must vanish;
    One hour is theirs, nor more is mine,—
    Sad thought, which I would banish,
    But that I know, where'er I go,
    Thy genuine image, Yarrow!
    Will dwell with me,—to heighten joy,
    And cheer my mind in sorrow.






  • Memory is so corrupt that you remember only what you want to; if you want to forget about something, slowly but surely you do.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 506-09.
  • Far from our eyes th' Enchanting Objects set,
    Advantage by the friendly Distance get.
    • Alexis, A poem against Fruition, from Poems by Several Hands (Pub. 1685).
  • I do perceive that the old proverb be not alwaies trew, for I do finde that the absence of my Nathaniel doth breede in me the more continuall remembrance of him.
  • Out of sighte, out of mynde.
    • Quoted as a saying by Nathaniel Bacon. In Private Correspondence of Lady Cornwallis, p. 19. Googe. Title of Eclog.
  • Tell me the tales that to me were so dear,
    Long, long ago, long, long ago.
  • Oh, I have roamed o'er many lands,
    And many friends I've met;
    Not one fair scene or kindly smile
    Can this fond heart forget.
  • Friends depart, and memory takes them
    To her caverns, pure and deep.
  • Out of mind as soon as out of sight.
  • The mother may forget the child
    That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
    But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
    And all that thou hast done for me!
  • Yet how much less it were to gain,
    Though thou hast left me free,
    The loveliest things that still remain,
    Than thus remember thee.
  • To live in hearts we leave behind,
    Is not to die.
  • When promise and patience are wearing thin,
    When endurance is almost driven in,
    When our angels stand in a waiting hush,
    Remember the Marne and Ferdinand Foch.
  • Les souvenirs embellissent la vie, l'oubli seul la rend possible.
    • Remembrances embellish life but forgetfulness alone makes it possible.
    • General Enrico Cialdini, written in an album.
  • Memoria est thesaurus omnium rerum e custos.
    • Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.
    • Cicero, De Oratore, I. 5.
  • Vita enim mortuorum in memoria vivorum est posita.
    • The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.
    • Cicero, Philippicæ, IX. 5.
  • Oh, how cruelly sweet are the echoes that start
    When Memory plays an old tune on the heart!
    • Eliza Cook, Journal, Volume IV. Old Dobbin, Stanza 16.
  • What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd!
    How sweet their memory still!
    But they have left an aching void
    The world can never fill.
  • Don't you remember, sweet Alice, Ben Bolt?
    Sweet Alice, whose hair was so brown;
    Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile,
    And trembl'd with fear at your frown!
  • Memory [is] like a purse,—if it be over-full that it cannot shut, all will drop out of it. Take heed of a gluttonous curiosity to feed on many things, lest the greediness of the appetite of thy memory spoil the digestion thereof.
  • By every remove I only drag a greater length of chain.
  • A place in thy memory, Dearest!
    Is all that I claim:
    To pause and look back when thou hearest
    The sound of my name.
  • Fer from eze, fer from herte,
    Quoth Hendyng.
    • Hendyng, Proverbs, manuscripts (c. 1320).
  • So may it be: that so dead Yesterday,
    No sad-eyed ghost but generous and gay,
    May serve you memories like almighty wine,
    When you are old.
  • I remember, I remember,
    The house where I was born,
    The little window where the sun
    Came peeping in at morn;
    He never came a wink too soon,
    Nor brought too long a day,
    But now, I often wish the night
    Had borne my breath away!
  • Where is the heart that doth not keep,
    Within its inmost core,
    Some fond remembrance hidden deep,
    Of days that are no more?
  • And when he is out of sight, quickly also is he out of mind.
  • Badness of memory every one complains of, but nobody of the want of judgment.
  • Tho' lost to sight to mem'ry dear
    Thou ever wilt remain.
    • George Linley, Though Lost to Sight. First line found as an axiom in Monthly Magazine, Jan., 1827. Horace F. Cutler published a poem with same refrain, calling himself "Ruthven Jenkyns," crediting its publication in a fictitious magazine, Greenwich Mag. for Marines, 1707. (Hoax.) It appeared in Mrs. Mary Sherwood's novel, The Nun. Same idea in Pope—Epistle to Robert, Earl of Oxford, and Earl Mortimer. "Though lost to sight to memory dear / The absent claim a sigh, the dead a tear." Sir David Dundas offered 5 shillings during his life (1799–1877) to any one who could produce the origin of this first line. See Notes and Queries, Oct. 21, 1916, p. 336. Dem Augen fern dem Herzen ewig nah'. On a tomb in Dresden, near that of Von Weber's. See Notes and Queries, March 27, 1909, p. 249.
  • I recollect a nurse called Ann,
    Who carried me about the grass,
    And one fine day a fine young man
    Came up and kissed the pretty lass.
    She did not make the least objection.
    Thinks I, "Aha,
    When I can talk I'll tell Mama,"
    And that's my earliest recollection.
  • The heart hath its own memory, like the mind,
    And in it are enshrined
    The precious keepsakes, into which is wrought
    The giver's loving thought.
  • This memory brightens o'er the past,
    As when the sun concealed
    Behind some cloud that near us hangs,
    Shines on a distant field.
  • There comes to me out of the Past
    A voice, whose tones are sweet and wild,
    Singing a song almost divine,
    And with a tear in every line.
  • Wakes the bitter memory
    Of what he was, what is, and what must be
  • Il se veoid par expérience, que les mémoires excellentes se joignent volontiers aux jugements débiles.
    • Experience teaches that a good memory is generally joined to a weak judgment.
    • Michel de Montaigne, Essays, I. 9.
  • To live with them is far less sweet
    Than to remember thee!
  • Oft in the stilly night
    E'er slumber's chain has bound me,
    Fond memory brings the light
    Of other days around me.
  • When I remember all
    The friends so link'd together,
    I've seen around me fall,
    Like leaves in wintry weather
    I feel like one who treads alone
    Some banquet hall deserted,
    Whose lights are fled, whose garlands dead,
    And all but he departed.
  • And the tear that we shed, though in secret it rolls,
    Shall long keep his memory green in our souls.
  • When time who steals our years away
    Shall steal our pleasures too,
    The mem'ry of the past will stay
    And half our joys renew.
  • All to myself I think of you,
    Think of the things we used to do,
    Think of the things we used to say,
    Think of each happy bygone day.
    Sometimes I sigh, and sometimes I smile,
    But I keep each olden, golden while
    All to myself.
  • Many a man fails to become a thinker for the sole reason that his memory is too good.
  • At cum longa dies sedavit vulnera mentis,
    Intempestive qui fovet illa novat.
    • When time has assuaged the wounds of the mind, he who unseasonably reminds us of them, opens them afresh.
    • Ovid, Epistolæ Ex Ponto, IV. 11. 19.
  • Impensa monumenti supervacua est: memoria nostra durabit, si vita meruimus.
    • The erection of a monument is superfluous; the memory of us will last, if we have deserved it in our lives.
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistles, IX. 19.
  • I remember, I remember
    How my childhood fleeted by,—
    The mirth of its December,
    And the warmth of its July.
  • If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.
    • Psalms. CXXXVII. 6.
  • Tho' lost to sight, within this filial breast
    Hendrick still lives in all his might confest.
    • W. Rider, in the London Magazine (1755), p. 589.
  • Hail, memory, hail! in thy exhaustless mine
    From age to age unnumbered treasures shine!
    Thought and her shadowy brood thy call obey,
    And Place and Time are subject to thy sway!
  • I have a room whereinto no one enters
    Save I myself alone:
    There sits a blessed memory on a throne,
    * There my life centres.
  • Though varying wishes, hopes, and fears,
    Fever'd the progress of these years,
    Yet now, days, weeks, and months but seem
    The recollection of a dream.
  • Still so gently o'er me stealing,
    Mem'ry will bring back the feeling,
    Spite of all my grief revealing
    That I love thee,—that I dearly love thee still.
  • Thou comest as the memory of a dream,
    Which now is sad because it hath been sweet.
  • Heu quanta minus est cum reliquis versari quam tui meminisse.
    • Ah, how much less all living loves to me,
      Than that one rapture of remembering thee.
    • The Latin is Shenstone's Epitaph to the memory of his cousin Mary Dolman, on an ornamental Urn. The translation. is by Arthur J. Munby.
  • The Right Honorable gentleman is indebted to his memory for his jests and to his imagination for his facts.
    • Richard Brinsley Sheridan, attributed to him in report of a Speech in Reply to Mr. Dundas. Not found in his works but the idea exists in loose sketches for a comedy.
  • Nobis meminisse relictum.
    • Left behind as a memory for us.
    • Statius, Silvæ, Book II. 1. 55.
  • Facetiarum apud præpotentes in longum memoria est.
    • The powerful hold in deep remembrance an ill-timed pleasantry.
    • Tacitus, Annales, V. 2.
  • The sweet remembrance of the just
    Shall flourish when he sleeps in dust.
  • A land of promise, a land of memory,
    A land of promise flowing with the milk
    And honey of delicious memories!
  • Faciam, hujus loci, dieique, meique semper memineris.
    • I will make you always remember this place, this day, and me.
    • Terence, Eunuchus, V. 7. 31.
  • For life is but a dream whose shapes return,
    Some frequently, some seldom, some by night
    And some by day, some night and day: we learn,
    The while all change and many vanish quite,
    In their recurrence with recurrent changes
    A certain seeming order; where this ranges
    We count things real; such is memory's might.
  • Memory, in widow's weeds, with naked feet stands on a tombstone.
  • Forsan et hæc olim meminisse juvabit.
    • Perhaps the remembrance of these things will prove a source of future pleasure.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), I. 203.
  • Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo.
    • These who have ensured their remembrance by their deserts.
    • Virgil, Æneid (29-19 BC), VI. 664.
  • Ah! memories of sweet summer eves,
    Of moonlit wave and willowy way,
    Of stars and flowers, and dewy leaves,
    And smiles and tones more dear than they!
  • And when the stream
    Which overflowed the soul was passed away,
    A consciousness remained that it had left,
    Deposited upon the silent shore
    Of memory, images and precious thoughts,
    That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed.


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