P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney


Dory, the lovable regal blue tang fish, has a tendency to forget things almost instantly after becoming distracted. In turn, this makes Marlin the clown fish’s journey to find his son more problematic, being that the Dory is the sole witness to his son’s abduction. At first, Marlin tolerates Dory’s unreliability, but soon he finds it unbearable. Relaying his frustrations to her, he demands and explanation. Dory, realizing the situation, confesses that her odd behavior is due to ‘short-term memory loss’, but is that truly the case?

Short-term memory is what you are consciously processing. It is limited both in capacity (about 7 items, plus or minus 2) and in duration (about 15-30 seconds). To put it in perspective, you are using short-term memory this very instant to read this blog post. If you did not have short-term memory, you would be unable to process and understand what these letters mean. Not only would you be unable to read, but you also would be unable to hold a conversation or work out math problems.

Now, relating this back to Dory, it is with evident that Dory is perfectly capable of holding a conversation and reading (as seen when she reads “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” off of scuba goggles). This means that Dory does have short-term memory and is not impaired in those processes in any way. Though this begs the question that if it is not short-term memory loss that Dory has, then what is it?

This answer can be found when you look more into Dory’s symptoms. Dory is seen on many occasions having a conversation with someone, then abruptly gets distracted and soon cannot remember what they were discussing. Though she forgets some things almost instantly, she can remember long-term events such as her family and her name. Dory can also perform implicit memory tasks that require “unconscious memory” such as swimming in the sea without having to think about it. After researching these symptoms, it is clear that Dory has anterograde amnesia.

Anterograde amnesia “is the loss of the ability to create new memories”. Mainly, it is thought to be due to damage to the hippocampus and the medial temporal lobe. The hippocampus and the medial temporal lobe are both known to be linked with explicit memory (or declarative memory) which are the things we consciously remember. Though long-term memory is by far more complex of a process that it cannot be related to only two brain structures, evidence has been found to prove that these structures are extremely important for this process. The hippocampus and the medial temporal lobe specifically relate to consolidation, or the process of strengthening a memory so you can consciously recall or retrieve when required, this helps turn short-term memories into long-term memories. Thus, when Dory cannot recall events that occurred just moments earlier, it is because her memories never made it to long-term storage, therefore once her memory leaves short term storage, it is immediately forgotten.

At a first glance, Dory’s diagnosis may seem counter intuitive. That Dory, who can only remember a short duration of experiences and thoughts, does not have short term memory loss. I too had fallen into confusion when I first read up on the topic of short term memory loss and realized that Dory’s disorder diagnosis was untrue. Though after further research, the results are clear. Dory does not suffer from short-term memory loss, but she does suffer from of anterograde amnesia.

3 thoughts on “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney

  1. cleaman

    That’s so interesting! I had never thought about that, but after watching Momento in class, it’s easy to see that Dory defintely has the same condition that Leonard does. I was thinking about what you wrote about how people with short-term memory are not able to process the letters in a word. I think people with short-term memory can read, as in they have the ability to read the letters and words, but they can’t remember the words they just read. Obviously then, this would make reading practically anything impossible. What I don’t get then is this: if Dory has anterograde amnesia (which I agree which you; I definitely think she does) how did she eventually learn to remember P. Sherman Wallaby Way, Sydney? Throughout the movie she repeated it over and over, but I wouldn’t think that would help her remember it if she is unable to create new memories. Looks like the creators of Finding Nemo should’ve done more research in the cognitive psychology department before creating Dory!

  2. amarti22

    I was also caught by the example you wrote about not being able to read, and thinking how frustrating it might be to try to read and knowing the word when you read it but being unable to process and comprehend what you just read; or even make connections about things that happen in your life with things that you are reading, and such. It also makes me think of how a person can get by with living in such a fast paced world with this disability, it almost seems impossible to me. Also, thoroughly enjoyed the Nemo post because: 1) i love Nemo, I mean who doesn’t. 2) My friends make fun of me and call me Dory because I forget things a lot. haha oops.

  3. rguenthe

    It was funny when reading this and I read the part about using short term memory when reading and how we were using it as we were really the post really got to me. I started thinking about that as I was reading and then realized I had not been paying attention to anything I was reading. All this time I guess I really did not understand the full concept of short term memory until I took this course. It seems to be a lot more complex than what we think and we may think someone has short term memory when they don’t, like Dory.

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