Professor: William Bechtel Fall 2003
Office: HSS 8076 Monday: 5:00-6:50pm
Telephone: 822-4461


Office Hours: Tuesday 2:30-4:30 Website:

Phil 87
The Sins of Memory

1. Course Description

Memory is an extremely important part of each individual's identity. As individuals we rely on memory to conduct our lives. Our legal system relies on memory to judge people's guilt or innocence. But recent research shows memory to be fragile and often unreliable. To gain an appreciation for the fallibility of memory and its consequences, we will read and discuss Daniel Schacter’s The Seven Sins of Memory.

2. Course Requirements

This class is graded Pass/NoPass. To receive an Pass for this course you must attend the seminars (if you must miss a seminar for a good reason, contact the instructor immediately) and submit discussion paragraphs for sessions 2-5. These discussion paragraphs are to be submitted by email (as plain text, not as attachments) to by Noon on the day of the seminar. These discussion paragraphs are to be based on the readings for that seminar and should focus on something that you find puzzling or controversial in the reading. Explain what you understand Schacter to be saying and pose a question or raise an objection in a short paragraph. These will provide the basis for the seminar discussions.

3. Text

Schacter, Daniel L. (2001). The seven sins of memory. New York: Houghton-Mifflin.

4. Schedule of Classes and Readings

October 6: Introductory Seminar
October 13: Transience and absentmindedness (Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2)
October 20: Blocking and misattribution (Chapters 3-4)
October 27: Suggestibility and bias (Chapters 5-6)b
November 3: Persistence and Wrap-up (Chapters 7-8)