Monday, March 5, 2012

The Deception of Memory

From BigThink:

Researchers in the UK have just completed one of the largest ever studies of human memory and preliminary results indicate our recall of even basic events is quite fallible. In the study, individuals were shown pairs of words like CUPCAKE and CARDBOARD. Later, they were shown a new but similar word like CUPBOARD and a new dissimilar word like SAWDUST. About 71 percent of the time, individuals would state correctly they had not seen the third and unrelated word before. Only 53 percent of the time would they state correctly they had not seen the third and similar word. 

Read the full article and report from The Guardian

What does this have to do with Buddhism? Check out "In the Mirror of Memory"

This book studies the diverse array of species of memory in Buddhism. Contributors focus on a particular school, group of texts, terms, or practices and identify a considerable range of types of mnemonic faculties in Buddhism. Included are discussions of Buddhist teaching, meditation, visualization, prayer, commemoration of the Buddha, dhārani practice, the use of mnemonic lists to condense lengthy scriptures, and the purported recollection of infinite previous lives that immediately preceded Sakyamuni's attainment of Buddhahood. Even enlightened awareness itself is said by some Buddhist schools to consist in a “mnemic engagement” with reality as such.

The authors explore Buddhist views on mundane acts of memory such as recognizing, reminding, memorizing, and storing data as well as special types of memory that are cultivated in religious practice.One of the most striking discoveries is that perception is intimately related to certain types of memory. Several essays investigate if, and if so, how, meditative mindfulness and recollection of the past—both of which can be designated by the term smrti—are connected within the Buddhist tradition. The question of whether recollection of the past can be explained without violating the foundational Buddhist notions of radical impermanence and no-self is addressed by several of the contributing scholars.

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