Remember When?

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Science  01 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6038, pp. 47-48
DOI: 10.1126/science.1208565

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Philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists usually consider remembering to be a solitary activity. We envision the lone rememberer, lost in contemplation like Rodin's Thinker, recalling his past. In memory experiments, thousands of subjects have sat alone in front of computers or memory drums (older devices designed to present information), or have lain inside giant magnets, duly recollecting events of their lives. We have learned much about remembering from their efforts. However, this tradition of research fails to capture a prominent characteristic of everyday remembering: its social aspects. That is, people tend to reminisce in groups—whether at family dinners, reunions, or other social engagements. On page 108 of this issue, Edelson et al. (1) offer new insight into the social aspects of memory, reporting on the first experiments to examine the neural underpinnings of how memories can change when an individual is exposed to the recollections of others. They show that activity in two brain regions involved in memory—the hippocampus and the amygdala—can vary, depending on how one person's memory has been shaped by interacting with others.