In his 1883 study into psychological phenomena, Francis Galton described varieties in visual mental imagery. Writing about the fact that some people "have the power of combining in a single perception more than can be seen at any one moment by the two eyes", Galton notes that "A fourth class of persons have the habit of recalling scenes, not from the point of view whence they were observed, but from a distance, and they visualise their own selves as actors on the mental stage" (1883/1907: 68-69). Such people remember events from-the-outside. In the language of modern memory research such images are known as ‘observer perspective memories’. Not everybody has such imagery, but are you one of Galton’s ‘fourth class of persons’? Do you recall events from-the-outside?
This perspectival feature of memory is a puzzling one, and it raises many questions. If the self is viewed from-the-outside, then who is the observer, and in what way is the self observed? Are such memories still first-personal? What is the content of such observer perspective memories? How can I see myself in the remembered scene from a point of view that I didn’toccupy at the time of the original event? Indeed, can such observer perspectives be genuine memories? In the book I provide answers to such questions about perspective in personal memory.
There is now a broad consensus that personal memory is (re)constructive, and some of the puzzles of remembering from-the-outside can be explained by appealing to this feature of memory. Indeed, it is often suggested that observer perspectives are the products of reconstruction in memory at retrieval. But this, I suggest, is only part of the story. To better understand observer perspectives in particular, and personal memory more generally, we need to look not only at the context of retrieval, but also at the context of encoding.