Leonard Shelby: Anterograde Amnesia

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  • Topic: Memory, Amnesia, Mnemonic
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Leonard Shelby: Anterograde Amnesia

Leonard Shelby suffers from anterograde amnesia, after being struck on the back

of his head and left unconscious. Now, he can no longer create new memories and the last

thing he remembers clearly is the accident. Leonard relives the situation on many

occasions; a flash bulb memory. Leonard can remember the various sensations that went

on during that time, Such as the loud noise, her side of the bed being cold, and then

moment he shot the “killer” he witnessed strangling his wife, and then finally when he

was struck on the back of the head by the other man in the room, leaving him

unconscious. Leonard can recall the various sensations with all five senses of what went

on that moment until the point where he was left unconscious.

Mnemonic Devices

In order to cope with not being able to create new memories, Leonard uses various

mnemonic devices to jog his memory of various people and significant things. A

mnemonic device is something used to help an individual remember something.

Tattoos

One of his mnemonic devices consist of the tattoos he has all over his body such

as “John G. raped and killed my wife” and “Remember Sammy Jankis”. Whenever he

looks in the mirror or directly at them, they are there and he is reminded of the meaning

behind them.

Polaroid Pictures

Another system he uses is his Polaroid pictures. He carries them everywhere and

on each picture written in pen and all capital letters, he writes down what he needs to

know about that person or place; such as people’s names and how he knows them, and

whether they are trustworthy or not. Leonard also uses a map, that he keeps above his bed

in the hotel, as guide to get around town and to help jog his memory of certain things.

This can be compared to a cognitive map that also acts as an aid to latent learning; while

Leonard is viewing the map it helps him remember important things he had done earlier.

Misinformation Effect

The misinformation effect is a memory bias when misinformation effects one’s

reports or their own memory. There are multiple examples of this in Leonard’s case.

Clerk

One of which consists of when the motel clerk changes his rooms and tells him

that the room he was previously in wasn’t his. In doing so the clerk took advantage of

Leonard’s condition and charged him for two rooms.

Natalie

Natalie is an extremely manipulative person whom which she manipulates him

frequently by making him believe she is in fact helping him, but in retrospect she is really

using him for her own personal issues and motives. At one point she deliberately bad

mouths his wife, and in return he punches her. She then gets up and leaves. But before

she walked out she took away all the pens, and due to the fact he couldn’t maintain focus,

he quickly forgot what just happened. When Natalie came back from outside, he asks

what occurred and why she was beaten up, and she replies that Dodd did it to her (a plan of hers).

Sammy Jankis and Wife’s Murder

Sammy Jankis is a fictional character of Leonard’s creation. He constructs these

false memories of this man and what went on truly between Leonard and his wife.

“John G.” is a fake name that he believes to have killed his wife. He did this so he would

think it was someone else that killed his wife and not Leonard himself. Sammy Jenkins

was a false memory that gave Leonard reason to keep living. Leonard did not want to

remember what he did to his wife, so he created false memories in order to look for the

killer. His friend, and cop, Teddy told Leonard that it was in fact Leonard who killed his

own wife. Leonard did want to believe this so he wrote on Teddy’s Polaroid picture “Do

not trust his lies” (example of misinformation). Leonard’s wife was in fact diabetic, like

Sammy Jankis’s wife, and he...
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