Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering

Scott A. Small. Crown, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-13619-5
Small, director of Columbia University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, puts forgetting in a new light in his eye-opening and reassuring debut. While the standard view in science has been that forgetting is a malfunction of memory, Small makes a case that it “is not just normal but beneficial to our cognitive and creative abilities, to our emotional well-being, and even to societal health.” Cognition, he writes, consists of “forgetting in balance with memory,” and in explaining how normal forgetting is beneficial, he uses case studies from his own practice. A lively criminal defense lawyer, for example, experienced pathological forgetting, which led Small to investigate whether the issue was in the patient’s hippocampus or prefrontal cortex. (Explanations of each brain region’s functions accompany the case study.) Autism and PTSD are discussed as examples of an imbalance between memory and forgetting, with Small’s suggestion that “emotional forgetting... frees us from the prisons of pain, anguish, and resentments.” Small keeps things accessible with an easygoing prose (“among the many metaphors for memory, a personal computer is a good one”) and helpful diagrams, and his passion is undeniable. This smart survey will satisfy those curious about memory, or anxious about forgetting. (July)
Reviewed on : 05/04/2021
Release date: 07/13/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Book - 1 pages - 978-0-593-13620-1
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