Science, Philosophy, Reason, and Life Without Memory

Watching this video is a very sobering look at the way that what the memory provides to an individual in the everyday activities is taken for granted and that without a functioning memory there is no connection with the past, identity, and a conscious way of relating to the present activities of life or the future. A line from the film says it clearly, “I think it is a very dramatic illustration particularly for the public of what it is like to being without memory. For example, this constant feeling that he has just waken up or he has not tasted anything before” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). While the video, stimulated thoughts about the value of memory, there is also the thought about how many things could be different, if only some memories could be erased. However, a connection is implicit from the story that it is relative to every individual is and how functioning occurs in life within the environment.

One question which has already been discussed in previous posts in the connection between the brain and the mind. If consciousness and memory are functions of the brain, but also connected to the mind, then there is a relationship between the anatomical structure of the, how the mind operates, neurologically, function, and the wakening experience of awareness in behavior and response. The way that memory is encoded and retrieved forms an understanding of knowing, believing, and behaving. Sternberg (2009) says, “A memory is a mental experience taken to be veridical (truthful) representation from one’s past.  Memories can be false in relatively minor ways … and in major ways that can have profound implications for oneself and others” (p. 198).  In the case of Wearing’s condition, the damage to the brain through Encephalitis affected not only the encoding, but also the ability to recall because of the damage to the Hippo-campus. This raises another observation about the impact of chemical, biological affects to the brain, mind functioning.

It has been established that Teratogens, (Friedman J.M., 1999), affect development of the brain, and also how the introduction of disease destroys tissue, thus disabling explicit memory (Sternberg, 2009, p. 180) from engaging the mind in an experience of conscious recollection (p. 180). A question might be posed about the difference in the absence of explicit memory in contrast to implicit use of information (p. 180). This is discussed in the dialogue by Dr. Michael Oddy who stated, “We ask him if he would like the coffee … But it is all about current events, it is about the surroundings (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). The events seem to suggest that there is not a reference to past experiences that could have been encoded and recalled, but rather knowing through cognition of present observations in the moment.

The traditional model of memory referred to by Sternberg (2009), in William James (1890-1970) theory of primary memory and secondary memory; then later Waugh and Norman, 1965 (p. 182) give explanation of the components and functions of the memory that are not in tact as a result of disease which destroyed brain tissue. However, the theories as presented, do not adequately offer explanation of ingrained skill or the, “four or five things, he will if questioned appropriately tell you about” (The Anenburg Foundation, 2009). In analysis, it seems evident that one working model of memory does not provide a complete picture without gaining insight from a Neuropsychology model that examines how dissociation of function, “to explain a link between a particular lesion or function” (Sternberg, 2009, p. 207). It seems that there is a correlational relationship to all of the activities, biology, physical structures, or trauma to the brain which in turn affects what happens in conscious awareness that is connected to how perception occurs, what is understood and believed, and what the experience of the life is in feeling and behavior.   How important is this to advancing understanding in the study of psychology?

It cannot be underscored enough that understanding what has been written and engaging with current and future research will build a bridge from the encoded memory that has been described by theorist to provide ongoing and enriched understanding of how the functioning of memory in the mind-brain relationship is enhanced by the value of ongoing research in Cognitive Affective Psychology.


Friedman JM, a. J. (1999). Clinical Teratology: identifying teratogenic risks in humans. Retrieved October 21, 2009, from Capella Library:, doi:10.1034/j.1399-0004.1999.560601.xJans,
Sternberg, R. J. (2009). Cognitive Psychology (5th Edition ed.). Belmont, California, USA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.
The Anenburg Foundation. (2009). Life without memory: The case of Clive Wearing, Part 1. Washington, DC: Annenberg Media,, DC.

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