Constructive memory (2005)

Alexander Riegler

Kybernetes 34 (1/2): 89-104

Purpose of this paper – From the radical constructivist point of view the mainstream conception of memory as an encoding-storage-retrieval device is considered questionable. The paper aims at an alternative perspective on memory and its interaction with cognition. Design/methodology/approach – The argumentation is based on various experimental data such as cognitive problem-solving, change blindness, and childhood amnesia. Theoretical insights of the radical constructivist epistemology developed by Heinz von Foerster and others contribute as well. Findings – Describing memory as storage-retrieval device separated from cognition is rejected. Rather, memory is the expression of a static snapshot of otherwise dynamical cognitive processes. As an embodied network of constructive components, the evolutionary evolved cognition-memory compound is not geared toward reproducing “true” facts. Rather, its goal is to produce structure that maintains coherence with the rest of the network. Research limitations/implications – Memory research should not judge recognition in terms of “correct” or “false” but rather reassess its performance in terms of the super-ordinate cognitive faculty. Practical implications – The results imply that the role of memory should be reconsidered both in memory research as well as in practical areas such as psychotherapy and law. Originality/value – The new characterization of memory rejects the narrow computational theory of mind. It provides a better account for memory distortion phenomena such as false recognition, intrusion, and confabulation. Keywords Memory, Language, Child psychology, Cognition

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