“Memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events.” – Albert Einstein
You can use any or all of the resources linked below with attribution when appropriate
Web Resources on Memory
Handouts and Activities
What is memory? How does it work? How does it help us know? What are its limitations?
These three questions really provide the core of the work I’ve done regarding memory as a way of knowing in TOK. There are endless, great examples one can use. Below are some of the readings and activities I have done with students.
I start by having them read a great article from a few years ago about how little weight investigators give to eye witness testimony when investigating airplane crashes.
I have them reflect on the various things they learned from the article about memory and its nature.
Here are some notes I collected with my students
From there we start to try to map how our brains form and store memories. There is a lot of wonderful stuff on the web with videos, animations and such. You can’t use it all but you can certainly find something that will work well for you.
This first one is a handout that maps out the memory “model”
There is a pretty clever web cartoon that goes through some of these issues here as well.
Netflix How the Mind Works
The first episode of this show does a very thorough job explaining how our minds work.
There are some great videos from Crash Course Psychology on this topic as well.
Memory and Personal Identity
Here is an adaptation of two readings on the topic of memory and identity that I pair with a video from Crash Course Philosophy on the same topic.
This is a collection of resources you can get into about the role our memories play in making us who we are and lends itself well to why we have such a hard time believing the counterintuitive truth that our memories, despite being so real, are unreliable.
There are many, many good examples of how eyewitness testimony and the memories formed by witnessing an event are unreliable.
This is my favorite resource to use because there is a video to accompany the article. This surveillance video shows a man attacking police officers with a hammer. I have to play the video for students a few times before they really can take in exactly what happens. The article that follows describes the various eye witness reports that people gave about what they saw which differed wildly from each other and from what the video showed.
Worksheets for that day:
Article that accompanied the video
There is a great Radiolab podcast about the terrorist attacks at the Westgate Mall in Kenya that contrasts the various eyewitness reports with the CCTV footage from inside the mall. Even though I have read a bunch of stories about the reliability of memory, this story really blew me away. I condensed the episode to have my students listen to it. You can download it here.
These are clever lesson plan for an activity about constructing historical accounts from eye witness testimony from the Stanford History Group.
And of course, some TED talks
Other articles and videos about eyewitness testimony:
Reliability of Memory Writing Response
After doing various readings and activities, I ask students to respond to the question: How reliable are our memories? Below is a sample response.
This is an adaptation from a New York Times article which profiled competitors in worldwide memory competitions. Attached to the article are interactive memory games you can play to test your skills.
I have them do two passes through this activity. First without saying anything other than what we’ll be doing. After that, I have some students share ideas on what they did or what they could do to improve and then have them do it again (with different words) and we see whether they improved.
These are the follow up questions I ask them to reflect upon
These are links to the actual NYT games
- Memorizing Words
- Memorizing Numbers
- Memorizing Names
Movies related to memory
There are many great examples but here are a few good ones.
When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.
Interesting look at the concept of erasing memories including conversations about the ethics of such technology. Here is an article that I have paired with the movie along with discussion questions I found somewhere.
This is a great movie though may not be appropriate for schools. I still show it. The gist of the movie is that the main character cannot form new long term memories and keeps “waking up” to find himself in situations he doesn’t understand. He finds clever ways to remember things and finds himself the victim of other people’s manipulations. Connects well to the ideas above on memory and identity.
I freakin love this movie. It has a lot of the same themes as the Matrix but much darker and came out a few years before. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot but this movie is great. I have never shown it to students but it’s great nonetheless.