Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts

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HarperCollins, Mar 19, 2013 - Science - 320 pages
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How is it possible to have vivid memories of something that never happened?

How can siblings remember the same event from their childhoods so differently?

Do the selections and distortions of memory reveal a truth about the self?

Why are certain memories tied to specific places?

Does your memory really get worse as you get older?

A new consensus is emerging among cognitive scientists: rather than possessing fixed, unchanging memories, we create recollections anew each time we are called upon to remember. As the psychologist Charles Fernyhough explains, remembering is an act of narrative imagination as much as it is the product of a neurological process. In Pieces of Light, he eloquently illuminates this compelling scientific breakthrough via a series of personal stories—a visit to his college campus to see if his memories hold up, an interview with his ninety-three-year-old grandmother, conversations with those whose memories are affected by brain damage and trauma—each illustrating memory's complex synergy of cognitive and neurological functions.

Fernyhough guides readers through the fascinating new science of autobiographical memory, covering topics including imagination and the power of sense associations to cue remembering. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, Pieces of Light brings together science and literature, the ordinary and the extraordinary, to help us better understand the ways we remember—and the ways we forget.

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About the author (2013)

Charles Fernyhough is an award-winning writer and psychologist. His most recent book, A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind, was a Parade magazine pick of the week and has been translated into seven languages. The author of two novels, The Auctioneer and A Box of Birds, Fernyhough has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Telegraph; contributes to public radio's Radiolab; blogs for Psychology Today; and is a Reader in Psychology at Durham University, UK. Pieces of Light was a Sunday Times, Sunday Express, and New Scientist book of the year.

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