The Seven Sins Of Daniel Schacter’s Memory

The memory of Daniel Schacter's seven sins

Daniel Schacter is a researcher, cognitive psychologist, and professor of psychology at Harvard University. He has conducted a study on memory that has come to the conclusion that our memory is prone to failure in seven different ways. Schacter calls these malfunctions the term “seven sins of memory”.

Schacter explains that the processes of remembering and restoring memory are constructive activities. He points out that human memory is far from perfect. In fact, this system has its own shortcomings, and memory deficiencies affect us all every day.

In The Seven Sins of Memory Schacter, he systematically classifies various memory disorders into seven distinct fundamental violations: transience, misidentification, blockage, distraction, propensity for suggestion, prejudice, and perseverance.

Schacter declared that these memory dysfunctions should be conceptualized as by-products of the desired properties of human memory.

In addition to this, he emphasizes that there is evidence that memory meets the needs of the present, while the past has been reshaped according to current knowledge, beliefs, and emotions. Schacter points out that memory distortions are as fascinating as they are important, and these sins often manifest in everyday life and are not a sign of any pathology. However, they sometimes have unintended consequences.

I remembered seven sins

Daniel Schacter states that memory disorders can be divided into seven profound sins. There are  sins of negligence that result from the failure to remember a thought, fact, or event (memory restoration). Among these, we have short-termness (general impairment of a particular memory over time) distraction (concentration problems that lead to memory loss) and congestion (inability to recover information).

the stroller is flying from the head

And then, on the other hand, there are  assignment sins  that refer to different types of falsifications (cases where there are falsifications in the restored memory). This may be because the memory has been codified incorrectly, perhaps because it has been altered unnoticed.

Among these, we have misidentification (assigning memory to the wrong source), susceptibility to suggestion (ingrained memories derived from suggestions or misleading information), and prejudice (distortion of the effects of current knowledge, beliefs, and emotions in memory).

Schacter also introduces the last sin, perseverance. This has to do with intrusive and unwanted memories that we can’t get rid of.


Short-term refers to memory impairment, distortion, or a certain loss over time. In fact, a person is able to remember recent events much better than past events. This is a basic feature of memory, as is the cause of many memory problems.

Short-term causes interference. There are two different types of disorders: proactive disorders, where old information impedes the ability to remember new information, and retroactive disorders, where new information impedes the ability to remember old information.


Distraction refers to a malfunction of the interface between concentration and memory. It contains problems concerning the interaction between the two parties.

Memory disorders due to distractions (forgetting keys or an important appointment) often occur because we focus on problems or worries that bother us, which makes us forget what we need to remember at that very moment. This means that during coding, the individual is unable to focus on what he or she must later remember.


A blockage refers to a frustrated search for information that an individual is desperately trying to recover. This happens when the brain tries to retrieve information, but another memory will block this.

This happens even when a person pays attention to the task they are performing and the memory he or she wants to bring to mind is not gone. The interesting side of the blockage is that the individual realizes it when he or she unexpectedly returns the examined memory hours or days later.

Invalid configuration

The sin of misconfiguration involves assigning memory to the wrong source. Here, the memory takes the right information and combines this information with the wrong source.

An erroneous definition occurs when a person mistakenly remembers that one element is new, when in reality it is only visually or conceptually similar to another element they have previously encountered. It is important to keep in mind that misidentification is much more common than what people believe and has serious implications for legal settings.

I remembered the seven sins

Suggestion susceptibility

Suggestion susceptibility is more or less similar to an incorrect determination, but this also includes open suggestion. Sin of suggestion refers to memory that has been preserved as a result of questions, remarks, or important suggestions.

Suggestion is the association of incorrect information  due to important issues or fraud.


Prejudices are retrospective distortions produced by current knowledge and beliefs. In this sin, a person’s current feelings and worldview distort memories of past events. This is quite similar to susceptibility to suggestion.

Prejudices  reflect our ability to significantly modify our memories without realizing it. We often rely on what we know or believe now, and this unconsciously shapes our past experiences. This can lead to two things: a biased description of a particular event, or a biased description of an extended period of an individual’s life that tells more about what he or she is feeling about that time than what actually happened then.


This is a memory malfunction that consists of the constant recovery of annoying information that we would like to ignore. Persistent memory can cause a person to suffer from phobias and traumatic stress disorder. A person suffering from this may even commit suicide if his or her case becomes too disturbing and intrusive.

In other words, perseverance  refers to an unwanted memory that an individual cannot forget,  such as those that have to do with traumatic stress disorder. The sin of perseverance refers to the recurrence of memory, and because of its painful and disturbing properties, the individual has tried to wipe this memory completely out of his mind.

the woman holds a cloud in her hands: the memory of the seven sins

Final remarks

While the seven sins of memory often seem to our enemies, they are really the logical consequences of the actions of our minds. The reason for this is that the sins mentioned are related to the nature of our memory that makes it work well.

For this reason, just as Schacter suggests, these sins are not mere afflictions. On the contrary, they are positive things.

Thanks to Schacter’s work, we know today that memory draws on the past to inform the present, how it preserves elements of current experience for the future, and how it allows us to look at the past as we wish. Therefore, we should see these seven sins of memory as elements that allow us to connect our minds to the outside world.

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