Memory is just one of many phenomena that demonstrate the brain’s complexity. On a basic level, memory is the capacity for storing and retrieving information, but memories are not simply recorded and neatly stored. Our memories are selected, constructed, and edited not just by us but by the world around us. We have an astounding, boundless capacity for memory, but our memories are also faulty, full of holes and distortions, and hampered by unreliable data retrieval systems.
Memory researchers explore the many mysteries of remembering. They examine why the name of a favorite elementary school teacher might leap easily to mind, while the time and place of a committee meeting prove maddeningly elusive. They try to explain why we have trouble remembering a person’s name—only to recall it later, after the person is gone. We still have much to learn about how memories are made and what determines whether they last or fade away.