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.
About the Author
Charles Fernyhough is an award-winning writer and psychologist. His books include A Thousand Days of Wonder: A Scientist's Chronicle of His Daughter's Developing Mind and the novels The Auctioneer and A Box of Birds. He has written for the Guardian, the Financial Times, and the Sunday Telegraph; contributes to NPR's Radiolab; blogs for Psychology Today; and is a professor of psychology at Durham University in the United Kingdom.
“A thoughtful study of how we make sense of ourselves.”
“Fernyhough is a gifted writer who can turn any experience into lively prose. . . . The stories in Pieces of Light . . . will entertain anyone who reads them.”
“Outstanding. . . . Fernyhough’s skills as a writer are evident both in the beautiful prose and in the way he uses literature to illustrate his argument . . . He draws on both science and art to marvelous effect.”
“A beautifully written, absorbing read -- a fascinating journey through the latest science of memory.”
-Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, University of California, Irvine
“Both playful and profound, a wonderfully memorable read.”
-Douwe Draaisma, author of Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older
“Fernyhough weaves literature and science to expose our rich, beautiful relationship with our past and future selves.”
-Dr. David Eagleman, Neuroscientist and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain
“Combining the engaging style of a novelist with the rigour of a scientist. . . . Pieces of Light will both linger in your memory and change the way you think about it.”
-Daniel L. Schacter, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers
“Fernyhough takes us on a captivating journey into the mind. And he does so with great style.”
“A sophisticated blend of findings from science, ideas from literature and examples from personal narratives. . . . Refreshing, well judged and at times moving.”
-Times Higher Education
“An immense pleasure, as Fernyhough casts the emerging science of memory through the lens of his own recollections. . . . Remains restrained and lyrical throughout.”
“A fascinating snapshot of where our thinking stands on the subject.”