playlist

The complexity of memory

The mind is a diligent recorder, taking note of all that happens and storing data on it for retrieval later, right? Well actually, no. Enjoy these 7 illuminating talks on the science—and oddities—of our memory.

  1. 17:36
    Elizabeth Loftus How reliable is your memory?

    Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn't happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. It's more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics — and raises some important ethical questions.

  2. 20:06
    Daniel Kahneman The riddle of experience vs. memory

    Using examples from vacations to colonoscopies, Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics Daniel Kahneman reveals how our "experiencing selves" and our "remembering selves" perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness.

  3. 20:28
    Joshua Foer Feats of memory anyone can do

    There are people who can quickly memorize lists of thousands of numbers, the order of all the cards in a deck (or ten!), and much more. Science writer Joshua Foer describes the technique — called the memory palace — and shows off its most remarkable feature: anyone can learn how to use it, including him.

  4. 9:29
    Peter Doolittle How your "working memory" makes sense of the world

    "Life comes at us very quickly, and what we need to do is take that amorphous flow of experience and somehow extract meaning from it." In this funny, enlightening talk, educational psychologist Peter Doolittle details the importance — and limitations — of your "working memory," that part of the brain that allows us to make sense of what's happening right now.

  5. 9:03
    Neil Burgess How your brain tells you where you are

    How do you remember where you parked your car? How do you know if you're moving in the right direction? Neuroscientist Neil Burgess studies the neural mechanisms that map the space around us, and how they link to memory and imagination.

  6. 20:50
    Scott Fraser Why eyewitnesses get it wrong

    Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes — and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create "memories" they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum. Editor's note: In the original version of this talk, Scott Fraser misspoke about available footage of Two World Trade Center (Tower 2). The misstatement has been edited out for clarity.

  7. 15:25
    Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu A mouse. A laser beam. A manipulated memory.

    Can we edit the content of our memories? It's a sci-fi-tinged question that Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu are asking in their lab at MIT. Essentially, the pair shoot a laser beam into the brain of a living mouse to activate and manipulate its memory. In this unexpectedly amusing talk they share not only how, but — more important — why they do this.