6 May 2010

Constructive memory: Remembering The Past to Imagining The Future


Episodic memory is widely conceived as a fundamentally constructive, rather than reproductive, process that is prone to various kinds of errors and illusions. With a view towards examining the functions served by a constructive episodic memory system, we consider recent neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies indicating that some types of memory distortions reflect the operation of adaptive processes. An important function of a constructive episodic memory is to allow individuals to simulate or imagine future episodes, happenings and scenarios. Since the future is not an exact repetition of the past, simulation of future episodes requires a system that can draw on the past in a manner that flexibly extracts and recombines elements of previous experiences. Consistent with this constructive episodic simulation hypothesis, we consider cognitive, neuropsychological and neuroimaging evidence showing that there is considerable overlap in the psychological and neural processes involved in remembering the past and imagining the future.


Schacter D. & Addis, D. (2007). The cognitive neuroscience of constructive memory: remembering the past and imagining the future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 362, 773-786

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