Collective memory shapes the organization of individual memories in the medial prefrontal cortex

Nat Hum Behav. 2020 Feb;4(2):189-200. doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0779-z. Epub 2019 Dec 16.


It has long been hypothesized that individual recollection fits collective memory. To look for a collective schema, we analysed the content of 30 years of media coverage of World War II on French national television. We recorded human brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging as participants recalled World War II displays at the Caen Memorial Museum following an initial tour. We focused on the medial prefrontal cortex, a key region for social cognition and memory schemas. The organization of individual memories captured using the distribution of the functional magnetic resonance imaging signal in the dorsal part of the medial prefrontal cortex was more accurately predicted by the structure of the collective schema than by various control models of contextual or semantic memory. Collective memory, which exists outside and beyond individuals, can also organize individual memories and constitutes a common mental model that connects people's memories across time and space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Female
  • France
  • Group Processes*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Museums
  • Photography
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Television
  • World War II