Reconstructing memory Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • De Brigard, Felipe
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • According to the received view, memory is a cognitive system the function of which is to store, preserve, and accurately retrieve personal-level representations of past experiences. Philosophers who hold this view typically explain cases of false memories either as mental events that are not produced by memory or as the product of a memory system that is malfunctioning. However, research in the cognitive psychology and neuroscience of false memory presents a challenge to this view, as it strongly suggests that memory distortion is not only a common and pervasive phenomenon but also the result of a well-functioning memory. In my dissertation I argue that in order to make sense of this evidence, we need to reject the received view. In particular, I argue that remembering isn't the retrieval of personal-level perceptual representations, but rather the reconstruction of incomplete sub-personal level sensory representations. Also, I argue that the content of our memories is not carried by a single representation that is preserved through time--a memory trace. I offer instead an account of memory traces according to which they are dispositional properties of neural networks to recreate the mental situation one was in during the original perception. In fleshing out what this particular disposition actually is, remembering is then explained not as the retrieval of a stored mental representation but rather as the act of reconstructing the mental situation one was in during the original perception by filling-in incomplete sub-personal memory traces. This analysis leads me to argue in favor of a view of remembering in which being aware of the content of a memory consists in covertly attending to a reactivated sensory representation. The final claim I argue for has to do with memory's function: I suggest that memory is not for the reproduction of stored mental representations. Instead, remembering is a sub-operation of a larger cognitive system the function of which is to produce probable episodic counterfactual thoughts--thoughts of what could have likely happened in the past--in the service of guiding and regulating our thoughts about what may happen in the future.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy."
  • Prinz, Jesse J.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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