A set of historical narratives beliefs and customs shared by a social group over generations

When the 'star of England', Henry V, set out to boost the spirit of his few troops before the battle of Agincourt, he recruited future history (Shakespeare 1600):

Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd This story shall the good man teach his son; And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by, From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

And as the outcome of that battle attests to, the urge to enter the collective memory of a nation is at times stronger than the fear of death.

Discussion of collective memory is at the interface of psychology, sociology, and history (Halbwachs 1925; Pennebaker and Banasik 1997). Collective memory is unique among the types of memory covered in this book because it is not confined to an individual nervous system. Rather, at any given moment in time it is encoded in a distributed "system of individual brains in the relevant social group, as well as in elements of the contemporary "culture of that group (Bartlett 1932; Wertsch 1985; d'Andrade 1995; "context, "real-life memory). Thus, although portions of the collective memory can be encoded in individual brains, as a whole, both the formation and the retention ofthis type of memory is an emergent property of the group ("reduction). Collective memory is a primitive of human societies (d'Azevedo 1962).1 Together with other ingredients of culture, it permits nongenetic information to transcend the limited lifespan ofindividuals.

The term 'collective memory' actually refers to three entities: a body of knowledge, an attribute, and a process. The body of knowledge is a cardinal element of culture. It is characteristic of the given social group, yet changes over time ("plasticity). The attribute is the distinctive holistic image ofthe past in the group, an image which itselfmay be used as a definer ofthe group. The process is a constant dialogue between individuals and their social group. By selecting ongoing information that is relevant to the group, filtering it, retaining it, and dispersing it in society, each individual could potentially alter the collective memory of the group. This in turn could affect the subsequent acquisition and use of memory in the individual, which could further affect the memory and behaviour of the group, and so forth. In other words, individuals could contribute over time to the collective memory of the group(s) to which they belong, but collective memory at any given point in time could also affect the perception and the memory in the brain ofthe individual members ofthe group. By virtue oftheir social affiliations and beliefs, individuals belong simultaneously to multiple groups centred on family, friends, age group, profession, hobby, politics, religion, and nation. Therefore, individual brains subserve the encoding of multiple systems of collective memory, some of which could be conflicting or even contradictory. The conflict may result in psychological and social tension.

In spite of the fact that collective memory is not a property ofthe individual, it is tempting to compare it with memory in individual brains. Only a few heuristic analogies will be noted here. Similarly to a popular "taxonomy ofhuman memory, over the years collective memory has been portrayed as being composed of explicit and implicit systems. 'Collective consciousness', a term used by Durkheim (1895) in defining 'social facts' (i.e. the subject matter of sociology), refers to the emergence in a society of collective knowledge, attitudes, values, and behaviour, and is mostly an explicit memory system. Jung (1969) put forward the idea that humans also have a 'collective unconscious', deep strata of the psyche harbouring universal primordial memories or images ('archetypes'; see also Ellenberger 1970). This is an implicit memory system, which, according to Jung, can be studied through myths. In a scientific context, the Jungian account of collective unconscious is vague (and see Bartlett 1932); but one does not have to be a Jungian in order to assume a body ofimplicit universals ofhuman mental faculties, which has been built into the human brain in the course of its long evolution ("a priori) and mould societal function. Other analogies between individual and collective memory can be proposed. Similarly to other types of memory, "retrieval of collective memory involves reconstruction (Halbwachs 1925), in which the representation of the original event is adapted to the context of recollection (e.g. Schwartz et al. 1986). And similarly to individual real-life memory, one encounters "false collective memory and possibly also "flashbulb collective memory (Schudson 1995;Baumeister and Hastings 1997).

Only little is known on the actual mechanisms of "acquisition, "consolidation, "extinction, and "forgetting of collective memory. Retention is less of a mystery: as noted above, the collective "engram is distributed in the brains ofindividuals with overlapping lifespan that transmit the information from one generation to another, as well as in artefacts of culture. Adolescence and early adulthood appear to comprise a 'sensitive period' for the acquisition and the consolidation of the collective memory (Schuman and Scott 1989; "development, "imprinting). In a world whose public and government opinion is dominated by massive media coverage of events in real-time, the kinetics of acquisition and extinction of collective memory is probably faster than it has ever been (Lynch 1996; Cox 2000).

The encoding and stability ofcollective memory are of extreme importance to issues of national and international policy, social policy, economy, war, and peace. Sectarian and national myths are still major powers on the national and international arenas. But not only there. Collective memory has a role in selecting and constructing our attitude toward nature and science as well (Midgley 1992; Eder 1996). One of the toughest challenges facing a scientist is to identify potential "bias in the approach to a problem or in the interpretation of data due to collective predispositions.

Selected associations: Bias, Culture, Observational learning, Paradigm, Zeitgeist

'An intriguing question is whether nonhuman social species, such as *monkeys, have rudimentary forms of collective memory, as opposed to other manifestations of culture (Bonner 1980).

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