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The Proust Effect

The Proust Effect: The Senses as Doorways to Lost Memories

Cretien van Campen
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The Proust effect refers to the vivid reliving of events from the past through sensory stimuli. Many of us are familiar with those special moments, when you are taken by surprise by a tiny sensory stimulus (e.g. the scent of your mother’s soap) that evokes an intense and emotional memory of an episode from your childhood. Compared to the science of memory deficits, little is known about the physical and sensory pleasures of remembering. Recently, however, practical projects in education in health care, and artistic and scientific investigations have been gradually laying bare the wondrous functioning of sense memories and enabling us to begin to understand what sense memories do to people. Three types of sources have been used for this book: scientific studies, art projects and personal accounts.

Part 1 explores what sense memories are; part 2 provides insights into their neurological, psychological and sociological nature; and part 3 discusses the benefits and uses of sense memories for individuals and professionals.

Among other things, this book shows how sense memories open doors to lost memories; how they operate differently from voluntary, goal-directed memories that are driven by verbal cues (e.g. asking questions, telling stories); how they can more often go further back into childhood than verbally recovered memories; how sense memories are created during childhood; and how they contribute to well-being in later life.