2018 Science | Dory’s Amnesia

Ah yes, amnesia. The condition that defines Dory, the gullible blue tang from Finding Nemo. Except it doesn’t. She’s been lying to you the entire time, and Film Theory on YouTube has proven it an entire year ago.

We don’t want to waste your time by asking you to watch the whole two video series. (But if you do have time to kill then by all means, set aside 30 minutes to watch). So we picked the bits that are most relevant to this year’s WSC syllabus and condensed it into one not-so-short article.

Retrograde and Anterograde Amnesia

If you look at the differences between retrograde and anterograde amnesia, it’s clear Dory suffers from the latter because:

Another key difference between the two types of amnesia are whether they affect declarative or procedural memories. Declarative memory is all about facts, about the who, what, when, where and why. But procedural memory is about the how, like riding a bike and using chopsticks.

This explains why she can forget Marlin within seconds of meeting him, but still retain the ability to read. Her AA means she can forget facts like meeting Marlin or Nemo’s name but still remember procedures like how to read or…rewatches video um…shoot missiles from downed submarines?

The question is: Does it, though?

So, is Dory lying?

Argument 1 Dory remembers seeing the boat that took Nemo. That is a declarative memory. ‘Nuff said.

Also, she constantly switches from naïvely asking a shark for directions to knowing sharks eat fish. Come on, Dory. Do you remember whether a shark is dangerous or not?

Argument 2 While it’s possible for anterograde amnesiacs to improve short term memory via mnemonics (like “Just Keep Swimming”), the amnesia itself simply isn’t hereditary like Dory claims.

Yes, benzodiapene drugs (for treating panic attacks) cause AA as a side effect. Yes, alcohol is the reason you can’t remember what you did last night a.k.a. temporary AA (or permanent if you drink enough to get Korsakoff’s Syndrome). But that stuff just doesn’t “run in the family”.

Argument 3 If you’re wondering why Dory would want to risk her life so many times just for the sake of keeping up her AA act, then look no further because Roman emperor Claudius did just that centuries ago.

Long story short, he was spared from a massacre because his physical deformities meant his power hungry brothers didn’t see him as a threat. In the case of Dory, faking weakness is a survival tactic. There’s even an actual term for people who exaggerate or fake illnesses: malingerers.

So how did Film Theory prove Dory was actually malingering?

Argument 4A Say you’re trying to fake AA and I want to call your bluff. If I hid a coin in my hand and asked you to guess which, what would you do to make your malingering look like the real thing?

If you’d deliberately give the wrong answer every time, then congrats, you just made the same mistake Dory did when she was asked to guess what sea creatures were being formed by a school of fish. That’s because even actual amnesiacs will get it right 50% of the time, so if you’re getting it wrong in ways that even probability can’t explain, then expect to be exposed.

There’s one more telltale sign that Dory shows: She never gets Nemo’s name right, but she always gives names like Fabio, Chico and Elmo.

Almost as if she remembers Nemo’s name ends with an O, like how she remembers the boat. Hmm.

Argument 4B Pretend you can’t decide? Congrats again. Amnesiacs rarely hesitate when guessing because there’s nothing there for them to analyse.

Sound familiar?

Fish take swordfish formation “Wait. Um…” Lobster formation “Ooh, ooh! It’s on the tip of my tongue!”

Argument 4C Say I gave you an address like P. Sherman, 42, Wallaby Way, Sydney. If you tried to recall it from memory later, what would you remember?

Just P. Sherman? Maybe Sydney? Another congrats to you for showing the primacy effect. Needless to say, the primacy effect, where you’re more likely to remember the first and last things on a list than what’s in the middle, does not affect actual AA people, who are just as likely to remember any item on a list.


Dory lied. And the science of amnesia proves it. Finding Dory should have been called Exposing Dory. Mic drop