Professor Emeritus John Seamon studied cognitive psychology for more than 40 years at Wesleyan.
John Seamon, professor of psychology, emeritus, is the author of a new book, Memory and the Movies, published August 14 by The MIT Press. The book is an outgrowth of a Psychology course, “Memory in the Movies,” which Seamon taught at Wesleyan for five years before his retirement in 2013. He is currently preparing a MOOC version of it to run on Coursera next winter.
The book examines what films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Memento, and Away From Her can teach us about how human memory works. Seamon explains that memory is actually a diverse collection of independent systems, and uses examples from movies to to offer an accessible, nontechnical description of what science knows about memory function and dysfunction. He also demonstrates how movies frequently get certain things, like amnesia, wrong.
Read more about the book on The MIT Press website.
Psychology majors Julian Zhong ’13, Ashley Swan ’13 and Tacie Moskowitz ’13 work with Professor of Psychology John Seamon in the Memory Lab at Wesleyan. The team is studying if a memory camera can help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
For people suffering in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, from head injuries or other conditions that impair memory, a special trip to the seashore or a visit with family may be just a blur by the end of the day. With assistance from a simple device known as a ViconRevue memory camera, Professor John Seamon and his students are studying whether it’s possible to help these patients remember more of their lives. While the studies are ongoing, early results are promising. They also suggest that our current understanding of how these patients’ brains are malfunctioning may be wrong, or perhaps too simplistic.
Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, is conducting research both in his Memory Lab at Wesleyan, and at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital. The memory camera device was invented by researchers at Microsoft about 10 years ago. A small and lightweight black camera, it is worn on a lanyard around the patient’s neck, and automatically takes a photograph every 30 seconds, or whenever it senses motion or a change in light. It is hoped that reviewing these snapshots of the day’s events later will help patients remember many details that would otherwise be out of reach.
According to Seamon, a handful of case studies have been published in the last five years about memory-impaired people wearing the special camera who are taken on an outing by their spouse or adult child. When the people later reviewed pictures of the day taken by the camera and reminisced about the events with their loved ones, they showed improved recollection of the outing, which remained for a period of months.
Professor of Psychology John Seamon has been appointed to a three-year term as associate editor of Memory, an international journal published by Taylor and Francis and focusing on empirical research on all aspects of human memory. As associate editor, Seamon will be responsible for handling approximately a dozen submitted manuscripts each year, soliciting outside reviews and making recommendations regarding publication in the journal.
According to the journal’s website, Memory publishes academic papers in all areas of memory research, including experimental studies of memory, as well as developmental, educational, neuropsychological, clinical and social research on memory.
Discussing the phenomenon of how memories change over time in The Hartford Courant, John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior John Seamon explains that the mental narrative many of us have created contain inaccuracies, even for seminal events such as the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Seamon, who studies how people remember and recall information, says that many people change details or add “facts” to their mental accounts over time, imbuing them with emotion and convictions. The changes are so profound that, even when confronted with the actual facts of the events, people will continue to insist that their memories are accurate.
“When recalling events, there’s a narrative form that we have. Things that fit that form tend to be remembered well,” Seamon says in the article. “We try to tell stories that are coherent and make meaningful sense to others. Because that’s what we do, we tell stories to each other.”
John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of “Memorizing Milton’s Paradise Lost: A study of a septuagenarian exceptional memorizer,” published in Memory, 2010.
The Department of Psychology hosted its Research Poster Presentation April 29 in Zelnick Pavilion. Pictured is Ankit Kansal ’10 who presented his research titled “Schizophrenic Patient Decision Making.” His advisors are Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, and Matthew Kurtz, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.