The relation between memory and personal identity is a well trodden track in the metaphysics of mind and self. But an article on the BBC News website suggests a connection not standardly considered.
A standard proposal of their relation, for instance, is that A is the same person as B only if A can remember experiences had by B. A consequence of such a view is that a person who is sufficiently old and incapable of remembering experiences had by her younger self is not the same person as that ‘younger self.’ There are variants on this approach which rule out that consequence. But all variants share the following feature: the link between memory and personal identity is in what is remembered.
But recent psychological research gives reason to consider a different kind of relation. Psychologists have found that as we get older, we tend to remember positive things better than we do negative things, with a corresponding change in how we behave (we’re happier) and in how we exercise our mental capacities. If this is true, then perhaps, in addition to changes to what one remembers, there are also changes in how one remembers that could constitute changes to who one is.
Anthony Collins on the Emergence of Consciousness and Personal Identity
By William Uzgalis , Oregon State University
(Vol. 4, March 2009)