The Washington Post

The ‘new science’ of memory;

How we remember, and how we forget
“Pieces of Light: How the New Science of Memory Illuminates the Stories We Tell About Our Pasts” by Charles Fernyhough

Many of us hold on to memories as though they were security blankets. Recollections of whom we’ve met, what we’ve seen and how we’ve felt connect us to one another and play a large part in how we define ourselves. And yet, these memories may be less accurate than we believe, according to a new book.

In “Pieces of Light,” Charles Fernyhough, a psychologist who teaches at Durham University in England, shows that our memories are fragile and quite mutable. “The truth is that autobiographical memories are not possessions that you either have or do not have. They are mental constructions, created in the present moment, according to the demands of the present,” Fernyhough writes.

Weaving scientific research from psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, Fernyhough explains that our brains don’t record experiences as cameras do; rather, we store key elements, then reconstruct the experiences when we need them, imbuing them with present-day feelings and the benefit of hindsight.

“This reconstructive nature of memory can make it unreliable,” he explains. “The information from which an autobiographical memory is constructed may be more or less accurately stored, but it needs to be integrated according to the demands of the present moment, and errors and distortions can creep in at every stage.” The result, he says, “may be vivid and convincing, but vividness does not guarantee accuracy.”

Long And Lean
‘Ballet Body’ DVDs use body-weight exercises to build strength
DVDs series includes Upper Body, Lower Body and Core

Leah Sarago’s “Ballet Body” DVD series combines ballet, dance, Pilates and yoga movements for workouts that promise to build full-body strength.

The upper body, lower body and core workouts are suitable for all fitness levels, according to Sarago, who leads participants through increasingly challenging progressions. Each workout uses minimal equipment: only a mat for the core workout, a mat and chair for the lower body, and a mat with light hand weights for the upper-body workout.

The DVDs, which target women, make familiar promises of results such as a “bikini-ready belly” and “bulk-free” muscle definition. The ballet-inspired movements, which include plie squats and arabesque push-ups, are intended to sculpt “longer and leaner” muscles. (It’s worth noting, however, that muscle is technically a lean tissue with a fixed length. While you can stretch muscles, increase flexibility and improve posture, the actual length of a muscle doesn’t change.) Still, the workouts are a low-impact, equipment-free way to build strength and break a sweat.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments

Sign up for email updates from the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

You have signed up for the "Confronting the Caliphate" series.

Thank you for signing up
You'll receive e-mail when new stories are published in this series.
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.