Human Associative Memory

Human Associative Memory

Human Associative Memory

Human Associative Memory

Excerpt

This book proposes and tests a theory about human memory, about how a person encodes, retains, and retrieves information from memory. The book is especially concerned with memory for sentential materials. We propose a theoretical framework which is adequate for describing comprehension of linguistic materials, for exhibiting the internal representation of propositional materials, for characterizing the "interpretative processes" which encode this information into memory and make use of it for remembering, for answering questions, recognizing instances of known categories, drawing inferences, and making deductions. This is all a very tall order, and we shall be gratified if a fraction of our specific hypotheses prove adequate for long. However, what is more significant is the overall framework and theoretical methodology within which specific hypotheses are cast: we sincerely hope that this framework would have a singular value that would outlive its specific details.

How have we arrived at the theoretical framework to be proposed? We will answer this question at two levels-first, in terms of a brief autobiography; second, in terms of a broader historical context. When the first author (JA) arrived at Stanford University as a graduate assistant to the second author (GB), there was an ongoing research program concerned with organizational and imaginal factors in various memory tasks. As we tried to become precise, even quantitative, in fitting organizational theory to free recall data, its difference from associationistic models of free recall seemed to evaporate, frankly because neither theory had been formulated with any real precision up to that time. Eventually, JA developed a semi-successful computer simulation model of free recall, FRAN; however, the data base of FRAN (or its memory representation) was fundamentally associationistic in character.

The problem with FRAN, as with other free recall models, is that it could not understand language: it treated a sentence as though it were a string of unrelated words. Consequently, it was decided to put FRAN aside and to search for a theory and model that would be able to represent the information in sentences and describe how they are learned and remembered. This required that both of us learn . . .

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