Individual and Collective Memory Consolidation

Analogous Processes on Different Levels

We form individual memories by a process known as consolidation: the conversion of immediate and fleeting bits of information into a stable and accessible representation of facts and events. These memories provide a version of the past that helps us navigate the present and is critical to individual identity. In this book, Thomas Anastasio, Kristen Ann Ehrenberger, Patrick Watson, and Wenyi Zhang propose that social groups form collective memories by analogous processes. Using facts and insights from neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and history, they describe a single process of consolidation with analogous—not merely comparable—manifestations on any level, whether brain, family, or society. They propose a three-in-one model of memory consolidation, composed of a buffer, a relator, and a generalizer, all within the consolidating entity, that can explain memory consolidation phenomena on individual and collective levels.

When consolidation is disrupted by traumatic injury to a brain structure known as the hippocampus, memories in the process of being consolidated are lost. In individuals, this is known as retrograde amnesia. The authors hypothesize a "social hippocampus" and argue that disruption at the collective level can result in collective retrograde amnesia. They offer the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) as an example of trauma to the social hippocampus and present evidence for the loss of recent collective memory in mainland Chinese populations that experienced the Cultural Revolution.

Table of Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. I. Types of Memory
  5. 2. Individual Memory and Forgetting
  6. 3. Defining Collective Memory
  7. 4. Three-in-One Model of Memory Consolidation
  8. II. The Memory Consolidation Process
  9. 5. Buffering and Attention
  10. 6. Selection and Relationality
  11. 7. Generalization and Specialization
  12. 8. Influence of the Consolidating Entity
  13. III. Disruption of Consolidation
  14. 9. Collective Retrograde Amnesia
  15. 10. Persistence of Consolidated Collective Memory
  16. 11. Loss of Unconsolidated Collective Memory
  17. 12. Conclusions
  18. References
  19. Index