Unknown White Male under the microscope

UnknownWhiteMalePoster.jpgCognitive Daily and The Washington Post cast a sceptical eye over the recently released documentary Unknown White Male which claims to depict two years in the life of someone with a curious form of amnesia.

Cognitive Daily examines the representation of memory in the film, and how closely it accords with what is known about the psychology of knowledge and remembering.

Reporting on the controversy over the film’s truthfulness, The Washington Post analyses the inconsistencies in the film, and the opinions of those who support and doubt the main character’s condition.

The Post quotes memory and amnesia researcher Hans Markowitsch and, rather endearingly, calls him a ‘neural psychologist’.

Link to discussion from Cognitive Daily.
Link to ‘A Trip Down Memory Lane’ from The Washington Post.

3 Comments

  1. Posted March 28, 2006 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    The whole thing is pretty interesting. I should be going to a screening with my boss who will be a discussant on ‘identity’ afterward.
    Also, there was a presentation at the British Neuropsychological Society on amnesia in the media. Bangs on the head and neurosurgery as cures rather than causes, that kind of thing. That said, I’m fairly sympathetic to the way amnesia is liberally used in fiction: as a brilliant device for disrupting the status quo and producing conflict, complaining about realistic use is a bit like complaining about guns solving problems in an action flick or bloodsucking conferring strength in a horror one…

  2. gabe
    Posted March 28, 2006 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I would agree about your last point if this wasn’t a documentary. Yes, amnesia is a great plot device if you’re making a film – Memento wasn’t a documentary, and it was plenty compelling. After reading that Washington Post article, this thing is starting to stink of a charade, and something about this rich cad deciding to edit out the people he doesn’t like (at the expense of the emotional welfare of his family) by faking memory loss for his “documentary”/business venture w/ his buddy just inherently angers me.
    I don’t know if it’s a disrespect to people that have real and incapicatiting amnesia, which as far as i know doesn’t consist of getting to run into the ocean to experience the sensataion “for the first time”, or hanging out w/ bjork and peddling your story everywhere you go, but my image of an amnesiac consists more of an inpatient sitting in a sterile room of some mental facility where his own face isn’t familiar to him while he shifts uncontrollably into various emotional states given his constant state of unknown (though I suppose I’m describing anterograde amnesia, not the extremely rare retrograde amensia, which the main character is suppose to have).
    I don’t mean to moralize, and I’m probably jumping the gun here. Either way, I’m still very curious to see this, but my gut says it’s a sham.

  3. Posted March 29, 2006 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Oh, moralise away. I’m of the same mind as you, and have worked very closely with enough cases of focal retrograde amnesia of uncertain origin to have a very delicate gut, if you don’t mind me spoiling your metaphor. This film is definitely not (intended as) fiction, so I’m not interested in absolving it of anything. That said, I am curious to see it, for professional reasons.


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