On the Seven Sins of Memory with Daniel Schacter


What exactly is a memory? How much do we know about the processes that a human brain executes to store and retrieve a memory? An individual memory may contain different elements such as explicit information, one or many contexts, relevant emotions; does the brain pre-process all individual elements of a memory and then stores this processed memory as one single entity? Or, are different elements of an individual memory stored at different locations in the form of a connected structure or network, and are post-processed at the time of retrieval? In this case what are the chances that during this post processing of different elements of a memory, the retrieved memory gets contaminated resulting in a false memory that reshapes the past? How do non-conscious memories affect and shape our behavior? Daniel Schacter is a cognitive psychologist and is professor of psychology at Harvard University. His research explores the relation between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how we use memory to imagine possible future events, and the effects of aging on memory. In this podcast at Bridging the Gaps professor Daniel Schacter shares and discusses cutting edge research on these topics.

Research shows, explains Schacter, that the process of remembering and retrieving memories is a constructive activity. He points out that human memory system is not perfect. The system has its shortcomings and we are all affected by memory’s shortcomings in our everyday lives. In his book “Seven Sins of Memory” Schacter systematically classifies various memory distortions into seven basic categories. According to Schacter these seven memory distortion categories are: transience, absentmindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence.

In this discussion Schacter explains these memory distortions in detail, one by one. He emphasizes that “these memory distortions should not be viewed as flaws in system design, instead these distortions can be conceptualized as by-products of otherwise desirable features of human memory”. Schacter explains this statement. He then discusses the experiments and research studies to measure, estimate and understand these shortcomings of memory. I ask him that can we use the estimates of these seven shortcomings of memory for an individual to gauge the individual’s ability or lack of it to reconstruct memories? If we succeed in developing reliable techniques to make such measurements, these techniques can be used to improve the way we manage, document and process eyewitness testimonies in legal proceedings. Schacter shares his views on this.

An interesting point that Schacter highlights in his presentations, and discusses in this podcast is that there is evidence of memory serving the needs of present, and the past being reshaped by current knowledge, beliefs and emotions. He shares his research findings on this.

Remembering the past and imaging the future depend on a common network in the brain, known as the Default Brain Network. Shacter describes the Default Brain Network and discusses the research that focuses on the question that how this one network manages these two different processes.

Just before finishing our discussion, I ask Daniel Schacter his views on human consciousness and on the question of how brain creates mind. Finally, I finish this podcast by asking Daniel Schacter what are major developments and breakthroughs that he envisages in the field of his research in the near future.


  • Schacter Memory Lab.
  • Schacter Daniel L. (2002). “The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers”, Mariner Books; 1st edition
  • Schacter Daniel L. (1997). “Searching For Memory: The Brain, The Mind, And The Past”, Basic Books.

(2001). The seven sins of memory: how the mind forgets and remembers, Choice Reviews Online, 39 (04) 39-2484-39-2484. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/choice.39-2484

Schacter Daniel L. (1996). Searching for memory: the brain, the mind, and the past Choice Reviews Online, 34 (04), 34-34 DOI: 10.5860/CHOICE.34-2465

By |January 17th, 2015|Podcasts|

Is Philosophy Dead? On the Bittersweet Relationship Between Science and Philosophy

Is philosophy dead? Well over the past few years a number of scientists and researchers have said that we don’t need philosophy, philosophy should not be taught, it is waste of time and some have suggested that philosophy is dead. This is obviously a question that should be discussed at Bridging the Gaps. Tim Maudlin, professor of philosophy at New York University, says that the scientists, particularly physicists, who suggest that philosophy is dead, simply don’t know what is done now-a-days in philosophy of physics.

An important point that Maudlin makes is that if there are philosophers who intend to write about physics and have no expertise in physics, perhaps this is not a good idea. In his view one of the main reasons that negative remarks are bing made about philosophy is that philosophers are writing about topics without having expertise in these areas. Maudlin says that if you want to know about the nature of matter, and nature of space and time, and if you want to understand large-scale structure of cosmos, you need input from science.

Maudlin says that tendency in the last forty years has been that philosophers become more and more competent in the particular sciences that they intend to comment on. He notes, “particularly in physics we get people whose training is in physic”. A number of researchers with undergraduate degrees in physics, and some even with doctorates in physics, feel that foundational issues in physics are not appreciated and supported in physics departments. They drift over into philosophy department so that they could easily pursue very foundational and conceptual questions.

Maudlin highlights that scientific theories are often not entirely clear in their standard presentations about what they are saying about the physical world. He acknowledges that it seems strange that a physicist might not quite understand what his / her theory says about the physical world, but the fact is that you can do a lot of physics by just doing mathematics, you learn to calculate, you learn to generate numbers and you use those numbers of make predictions. You can do all that but when asked very basic question about what the physical picture of the world is that is being presented by this theory, the physicist have nothing to say about it. These are sort of things that philosophers are most interested in.

An interesting point is that critical thinking is considered to be at the core of scientific method of investigation. Scientists and researchers have always emphasized the importance of critical thinking. Can it be said that critical thinking is an important element of philosophical thinking as well? And if this is correct then one can say that science and philosophy complement each other, and should strengthen our efforts to extend the boundary of knowledge and understanding. Maudlin shares his views on this.

After discussing the bittersweet relationship between philosophy and science, we touch upon a number of other topics that Tim Maudlin’s research focuses on, these are:

  • Nature of Time: is time real, or is it just an illusion? Is time directional?
  • Nature of Spacetime
  • Quantum Physics and Entangled Particles
  • Observer Effect and Wave Collapse Function
  • Structure of the Universe at the Plank Scale
  • The title of one of your books is the Metaphysic within Physics, is there metaphysics within physics?
  • Can philosophy assist and guide us to understand these difficult to understand concepts?

Maudlin has written about the structure of the universe and that why does it appear fine-tuned for life. His view is that the Big Bang state itself arose out of some previous conditions and it is possible that the whole universe is just a small part of everything there is, and that we live in a kind of bubble universe, a small region of something much larger. He says that it is possible that there are many other bubbles, which means, there are other universes, all very different from one another. In that it is possible that few of these universes got fine-tuned to support life. At this point we discuss an analogy that Maudlin has used in his publications that if we give millions of monkeys typewriters, there is high probability that some of these monkey will produce good poetry. Maudlin explains why he uses this metaphor in his publications.

I finish our discussion by asking Tim Maudlin what are major developments and breakthroughs that he envisages in the field of his research in next fifty to sixty years.


  • Maudlin T. (2011). “Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity”, Wiley-Blackwell, 3rd Edition.
  • Maudlin T. (2006). “Truth and Paradox”, OUP Oxford, New Ed edition.
  • Maudlin T. (2009). “The Metaphysics Within Physics”, OUP Oxford.
  • Maudlin T. (2012). “Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time”, Princeton University Press.
  • Maudlin T. (2014). “New Foundations of Physical Geometry: The theory and Linear Structures”, OUP Oxford.
By |January 3rd, 2015|Podcasts|

Upcoming Podcasts at Bridging the Gaps

Consciousness, Synthetic Consciousness and Singularity with Professor David Chalmers

David Chalmers is an Australian philosopher and a cognitive scientist specializing in the area of philosophy of mind. He is professor of philosophy and is Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. He is also professor of philosophy at New York University.

On the Bittersweet Relationship Between Science and Philosophy with Professor Tim Maudlin

Tim Maudlin is professor of philosophy at New York University and has been a visiting professor at Harvard University. His research focuses on the foundations of physics, metaphysics and logic. He has published several papers and articles, books and book chapters on these and related topics.The books that he has published on these topics are: “Truth and Paradox: Solving the Riddles”, “The Metaphysics within Physics”, “Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity” and “Philosophy of Physics: space and time”.

Conscious and Unconscious Forms of Memory and Memory Distortions with Professor Daniel Schacter

Daniel Schacter is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. His research explores the relation between conscious and unconscious forms of memory, the nature of memory distortions, how we use memory to imagine possible future events, and the effects of aging on memory. He has published over 300 articles on these and related topics and has published several books and book chapters. His two books that are relevant to this discussion are “Searching for Memory” and “The Seven Sins of Memory”.

By |January 1st, 2015|Podcasts|