Decisions and the Evolution of Memory: Multiple Systems, Multiple Functions

Psychological Review 109:306-329 (2002)
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Memory evolved to supply useful, timely information to the organism’s decision-making systems. Therefore, decision rules, multiple memory systems, and the search engines that link them should have coevolved to mesh in a coadapted, functionally interlocking way. This adaptationist perspective suggested the scope hypothesis: When a generalization is retrieved from semantic memory, episodic memories that are inconsistent with it should be retrieved in tandem to place boundary conditions on the scope of the generalization. Using a priming paradigm and a decision task involving person memory, the authors tested and confirmed this hypothesis. The results support the view that priming is an evolved adaptation. They further show that dissociations between memory systems are not—and should not be—absolute: Independence exists for some tasks but not others.

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Stanley Bernard Klein
University of California, Santa Barbara


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