Source amnesia

Source amnesia

Source amnesia is an explicit memory disorder in which someone can recall certain information, but not where or how it was obtained.

Process & Experimentation

The disorder is particularly episodic, where source or contextual information surrounding facts are severely distorted or unable to be recalled. Via the use of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST) developed by Esta Berg in 1948, Positron Emission Tomography (PET), and explicit and implicit memory tests, researchers have performed extensive empirical research on source-amnesiacs and concluded or suggested neuropsychological genesis.

Daniel Schacter and Endel Tulving have each proposed that memory for facts is differentiated from memory for context. The neuropsychological implications as in brain maturation, deterioration in the normal aging course, and damage are conveyed. The organic deterioration of the frontal lobes in the process of normal aging has a greater influence on episodic memory than perhaps premature lobes in young children. Source amnesia has the ability to alter one's confidence in their memory encoded in differing conditions (e.g., while conscious or in dreaming), as in memory distrust syndrome, an inclusive disorder. Source amnesia was first presented and examined in the hypnotic environment, and further understanding the human memory process is essential in unraveling this condition.


As source amnesia prohibits recollection of the context specific information surrounding facts in experienced events, there is also the inclusive case of confusion concerning the content or context of events, a highly attributable factor to confabulation in brain disease. Such confusion was termed memory distrust syndrome by Gudjonsson and MacKeith. A condition similar to source amnesia sometimes occurs in dreams, when the dreamer has some knowledge about details of the imaginary environment but has no idea how they learned this information.

Source amnesia has been theorized to partially account (in some cases alongside confirmation bias) for particularly persistent, common misconceptions. Unable to place a known "fact" into the context of an unreliable source, some individuals may subconsciously re-assign the information an ambiguous or more trustworthy origin.


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