Constructive memory (2005)
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