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ForgettingMyths, Perils and Compensations$
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Douwe Draaisma

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300207286

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300207286.001.0001

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The Myth of Total Recall

The Myth of Total Recall

(p.158) Chapter Nine The Myth of Total Recall

Douwe Draaisma

, Liz Waters
Yale University Press

This chapter considers the work of Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield, who contributed more than anyone to the theory that our brains contain a complete record of everything we have ever experienced. Based on several brain stimulation studies on patients with epilepsy, Penfield declared that our brains store away experiences “like a wire-recorder or a tape-recorder.” Current brain science has dispensed with the notion that Penfield discovered a neuronal tape recorder. Nonetheless, his theory has embedded itself in the collective memory, where its lies next to other favorite neuromyths such as “we use only 10 per cent of our brains,” or “women are better at multitasking because they have more connections between the two halves of their brains”—myths that are believed not because the evidence is convincing but because people want to believe them.

Keywords:   Wilder Penfield, human memory, memories, brain science, recall, absolute memory, brain stimulation, neuromyths, collective memory

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