The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

Memory as storage space

DrawersFindings published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, and reported in Wired, add to the evidence that remembering ought not be conceived as the retrieval of an item from a store.

Psychologist Kimberly Wade performed an experiment in which subjects played a gambling task, in pairs. Each member of the pair was entrusted to keep track of her own score. Afterwards, footage was doctored to give the impression that one member of a pair had cheated. The partner of the framed subject was found to show a strong willingness to testify that they themselves had seen their partner cheat, once shown the doctored footage.

The results add to the evidence against a conception of memory as storage of passive vehicles of content. The misremembering in this experiment is not the result of deteriorating memory but rather of further experience. This suggests that what one experiences after the event is perhaps as epistemologically relevant to the quality of the memory as the conditions at the time the memory was formed. Nonetheless, the store metaphor is still popular in fields like philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. Is that a mistake?

For the article in Wired go here.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small Neuroethics: Ethics and the Sciences of Mind
By Neil Levy , University of Melbourne
(Vol. 3, December 2008)
Philosophy Compass

One comment on “Memory as storage space

  1. pelagian7
    September 20, 2009

    I read another study. A group of collaborators agreed to name a red board orange when asked. Then a student was brought into the group. Each person was asked to identify the color of the board and each said orange. When the student was asked to name the color, nearly every time the study was reproduced, they said orange too.

    So not only can our memory be subverted but peer pressure can influence greatly. This was a study where the outcome was unimportant and the people never had to face the collaborators again yet, they conformed.

    Can you imagine the balls it takes to leave the religion predominant in an area.

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