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Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell about Our Pastsby Charles Fernyhough
Synopses & Reviews
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.
“A thoughtful study of how we make sense of ourselves.” Nature
“An immense pleasure, as Fernyhough casts the emerging science of memory through the lens of his own recollections....Remains restrained and lyrical throughout.” New Scientist
“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 is a gifted writer who can turn any experience into lively prose....The stories in Pieces of Light...will entertain anyone who reads them.” Financial Times
“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.” Observer (UK)
“Fernyhough takes us on a captivating journey into the mind. And he does so with great style.” Telegraph
“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
“A fascinating snapshot of where our thinking stands on the subject.” Independent
“A multidisciplinary approach to explaining memory....Will be intriguing for readers interested in the borderlands where memoir, fiction and science overlap.” Kirkus Reviews
“His examination [is] welcoming and accessible to lay readers. His analysis is wide-ranging....He also covers a wide swath of literary and historical ground....A refreshingly social take on an intensely personal experience.” Publishers Weekly
“[A] thoughtful exploration of recent memory research....Fernyhough, who writes fiction as well as psychological studies, is a deft guide to discoveries that have led memory researchers to stress the centrality of storytelling.” Booklist
Leading psychologist Charles Fernyhough blends the most current science with literature and personal stories in Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts.
A new consensus is emerging among cognitive scientists: rather than possessing fixed, unchanging memories, they have found that we create recollections anew each time we are called upon to remember. According to psychologist Charles Fernyhough, remembering is an act of narrative imagination as much as it is the product of a neurological process.
An NPR and Psychology Today contributor, Dr. Fernyhough guides readers through the fascinating new science of autobiographical memory, covering topics such as: navigation, 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 our powers of recall and our relationship with the past.
About the Author
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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