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Memory

Ian Neath


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When most people think of memory, they tend to think of a place in which information is put and stored until it is needed, much like a library. Unfortunately, this metaphor is quite misleading in that it implies a static, veridical process. Nothing really happens to library books while sitting on the shelf; they may grow musty, they might be mis-shelved, but once one has the book, the contents are identical to the last time the book was consulted. In contrast, human memory is a dynamic, fundamentally reconstructive set of processes that enable previously encoded information to affect current and future performance. Memory works like perceptual and other cognitive processes: people use whatever cues and information are available to achieve a sensible interpretation of the information processed (→  Information Processing ). Consider the case of recalling what happened at the college football game last week. The first time a retrieval attempt is made, there are three sources of information: (1) from the event itself, (2) from similar events, and (3) from general knowledge of what happens at football games. All three sources of information are involved in the construction of a memory. The spectator might remember a specific play, which most likely comes from memory of the event itself. But if asked whether he remembers the coin toss that starts the game, he might mistakenly recall a ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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