Daniel L. Schacter

Harvard University

Primary Section: 52, Psychological and Cognitive Sciences
Secondary Section: 28, Systems Neuroscience
Membership Type: Member (elected 2013)


Daniel L. Schacter is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Schacter's research combines psychology and neuroscience to explore nature of human memory. Schacter received his BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1974 and his PhD from the University of Toronto in 1981. He then served on the faculty at Toronto and at the University of Arizona before joining the faculty at Harvard in 1991, where he served as Chair of the Department of Psychology from 1995-2005. Many of Schacter's experimental studies and theoretical ideas are summarized in his 1996 book, Searching for Memory: The Brain, The Mind, and The Past, and his 2001 book, The Seven Sins of Memory: How The Mind Forgets and Remembers.

Research Interests

Research in my laboratory has focused on various aspects of human memory, using the tools of both psychology and neuroscience. Much of our early work focused on the general idea that memory is not a unitary entity, but instead consists of distinct forms or systems. For example, we proposed and explored a distinction between explicit memory (conscious recollection) and implicit memory (nonconscious effects of past experience on subsequent performance and behavior). More recent work has explored the idea that memory is a constructive process that is sometimes prone to error and distortion. We have focused in particular on the brain mechanisms that support accurate and inaccurate remembering, and have used neuroimaging techniques to examine similarities and differences in brain activity associated with true or accurate memories vs. false or inaccurate memories. In a related line of work, we have documented the critical role that memory plays in allowing individuals to imagine or simulate events that might occur in their personal futures. We have found that many of the same cognitive and neural processes are recruited when we remember the past and imagine the future. We have further argued that memory's role in future event simulation may be important for understanding the constructive nature of memory, because simulating novel future experiences requires a system that allows flexible recombination of elements of past experience, which may also contribute to memory errors.

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