In my earlier posts I began to discuss my book, Jesus Before the Gospels, which deals with how understanding how “memory” works can contribute to our assessment of the Gospels stories about Jesus. Long before starting the book I had been intrigued the question of how eyewitnesses would have remembered the Jesus’ life, and how the stories about Jesus may have been shifted and altered and invented in later times based on faulty or even false memories. Those questions led me to be interested in memory more broadly.
Memory is an enormous field of research, just within cognitive psychology. I spent many months doing nothing but reading important studies, dozens and dozens of books and articles. It is really interesting stuff. Memory is not at all what I started out thinking it was. Like most people I had this vague notion in my head that memory worked kind of like a camera. You see or experience something and take a photo of it and store it in your head. Sometimes the photo might fade, or you might mistake one photo for another, but basically it is all in there in your head.
Since the 1930s, psychologists have realized that it’s not that way at all. When you see or otherwise experience something, you don’t