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Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film


The movie Fifty First dates is an intriguing and engaging movie since the theme is an unusual one. When I first watched the movie, I was incredulous that such a condition can exist in an individual. The condition that the central character Lucy suffers from is referred to as “Anterograde Amnesia”. She does not remember anything from the past i.e. from the date of the accident till the present. She wakes up every morning thinking that the day is October 13th, 2002 and it is her father’s birthday. Her family (father and brother) play along by painting the garage afresh every night and arranging the activities around the house as it were on October 13th.

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In this paper, I discuss the memory disorder of Lucy with reference to the different kinds of memory classification. The discussion about Lucy is not straightforward as a classification of “black or white” concepts but is a complex mixture of overlapping concepts in action.

Prospective Memory

Prospective Memory is defined as the memory that helps us in “remembering to remember”. This type of memory does not depend on external stimuli and is self-initiated. Referring to the movie, Lucy does things like driving to the café for breakfast every morning and goes about her chores in the day. Thus, the character is presented as not needing information from the past and goes through life literally “living one day at a time”. The next morning it is back to the same routine without her knowing what she did the previous day. Thus her life can be described as a series of discrete days with her ability to remember limited to the particular day.

Retrospective Memory

Retrospective memory is the memory of remembering the past. This is the compliment to prospective memory and can be thought of as performing actions that depend on events that happened in the past. In the movie, Lucy suffers from a lack of retrospective memory. As described above, her day is the same every day and there is no continuity in memory apart from the daily chores. Any kind of memory that is not prospective is grouped under retrospective memory.

Explicit Memory

Long-term memory is divided into declarative (explicit) and procedural (implicit) memory. The difference between the two is that explicit memory depends on the “recall of information” that is stored in the brain to do tasks. Thus, this memory is associated with storing information and facts. Lucy cannot remember the past from the date of her accident. Thus, she cannot recall the previous day’s activities through her daily routine every day is the same. Explicit memory is further divided into Episodic and Semantic memories.

Semantic Memory

Lucy can use semantic skills that are independent of time and place. Her linguistic skills as well as her concepts about the world in terms of going for a date with a male are retained and she is like any other young woman of her age when she meets people every day. This kind of memory does not need a remembrance of past events and refers to the knowledge of the world that we acquire without a need to remember the event in which we learned the concepts.

Episodic Memory

This memory refers to knowledge of a particular event without needing repeated exposure to the same. The episodic memories are turned into semantic memories over a period of time. Thus, when one learns elementary concepts about the world in general, they are stored in the mind as linguistic forms. Each successive episode of learning reinforces the semantic memory. Lucy need not learn new concepts every day, but the unique thing about her disorder is that she does not remember the “episode” but knows the concept. Thus, whenever she meets Henry, she says things that are semantic but have no association with the last time she met him.

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Implicit Memory

Implicit memory is contrasted with explicit memory. One does not need to remember previous occurrences of things to perform the same tasks every day. Lucy drives to the café every day without remembering when she learned to drive or how she drove yesterday. Lucy does things implicitly without recourse to an explicit recall or understanding of events and places. Research has shown the differences between explicit and implicit memories where amnesiac patients learn tasks without a need for explicit memory of the same. Lucy can learn new things every day but cannot remember what she learned the next day. The same goes when she meets Henry at the café every day as though she is meeting him for the first time. She goes through episodes of her life with no continuity and is “stuck” on one particular day of her life.

As discussed throughout this paper, she does not fall into a category of impairment of a specific category of memory. Her condition is unique and in conclusion, has to be said that Henry takes it as a challenge to win her over and provide her with some semblance of normal life. The movie can be a good case study for anyone wishing to study the complexities of memory.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 16). Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, October 16). Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film.

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"Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film." StudyCorgi, 16 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film." October 16, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film." October 16, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film." October 16, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Psychology. Memory Disorder in “Fifty First Dates” Film'. 16 October.

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