Memory and imagination

28 Jun

We often see memory and imagination as if they were in a zero sum relationship; more emphasis on learning facts and information is thought to come at the expense of imagination and creativity.

But this completely wrong, memory is, in fact, a prerequisite for creativity. Research shows that people who are creative experts  have large amounts of information stored in their memories. For example, here is a paper titled Practicing Perfection: Piano Performance as Expert Memory (pdf).

A recent issue of Harvard Magazine describes the work of Daniel Schacter, author of Searching For Memory Schacter suggests that imagination and memory rely on the same neural substrates:

“In fact, Schacter continues, memory and imagination involve virtually identical mental processes; both rely on a specific system known as the “default network,” previously thought to be activated only when recalling the past. This discovery led to a rich vein of research, he reports. For instance, the link between memory and imagination could explain why those with memory problems, such as amnesiacs or the elderly, often struggle to envision the future.”

(Thanks to Kathy for the link to Harvard Magazine)

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