Marjorie Prime

The Gem Bethel, ME


Steven Quackenbush

Professor of Psychology, University of Maine Farmington

Marjorie Prime— What are memories?

How authentic are our memories? Can we trust them? Professor of Psychology Steven Quackenbush explains how our memories are constructed and how they change over time.

The Gem Bethel, ME

Film Synopsis

In the near future, in a time of artificial intelligence, 86-year-old Marjorie has a handsome new companion who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her.

Marjorie (Lois Smith) is an elderly woman who lives with her daughter (Geena Davis) and son-in-law (Tim Robbins). Marjorie’s mind has started to drift as she’s gotten older, so to help, she’s begun talking to a holographic reproduction of her husband, Walter (Jon Hamm). The creation — referred to as a “Prime” — is a software-driven blank slate that can take on the characteristics and nuances Marjorie remembers about her husband, even if some of them aren’t exactly true. As other family members talk to Walter Prime, it becomes clear that the family has been haunted by unspoken secrets and tragedies they’ve never really dealt with.

About the Speaker

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Dr. Steven Quackenbush completed his Ph.D. in social-personality psychology at Kansas State University in 1996. As a University of Maine Farmington faculty member, Dr. Quackenbush has taught a broad range of courses, including General Psychology, Adulthood and Aging, and Cognitive Psychology. His scholarly interests include the history of psychology and narrative approaches to the study of lifespan personality development. Dr. Quackenbush’s recent publications have explored issues relevant to the narrative structure of personal identity as well as the general problem of theoretical unification in the social sciences. Of his various accomplishments, Dr. Quackenbush is especially proud of his long track record of involving undergraduate students in original research.