On Unifying Declarative Memory

Dissertation, University of Missouri, St. Louis (2019)
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The distinction between episodic and semantic declarative memory systems, as introduced by Tulving (1972, updated in 1984, 1991), was a revolutionary approach to human memory. While the distinction is now widely endorsed in the study of memory, there are debates about what constitutes each system’s domain, how each system is used, how each system functions, and the phenomenal experiences associated with the functioning of each system. On the basis of clinical studies and insights from conditions affecting memory, this paper argues that the episodic/semantic distinction can be reframed as a result of a unified declarative memory system. In this view, experiences are encoded into memory traces, and retrieval of memories is dependent on the cues specific to each particular instance of remembering. The upshot of this proposal, called unified memory functionalism, is that the phenomenal differences of remembering can be understood in terms of the differential salience of cues without defaulting to the view that there exist multiple declarative memory systems.
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