Theories on memory


Our brains tend to keep our memories in nodes, which it then connects with associated other memories. Nodes can be semantic (with straightforward meaning) or affective (with emotional meaning). Thus we may have a node for happiness, with which are associated all our happy memories.

Nodes can also inhibit one another (a form or negative association). Thus when we are happy it is difficult to think of sad things, and vice versa. Network theory is also called Associative Network Theory, the Network Model and Network Theory of Affect.

Bower, Gordon, et. al.. Availability Heuristic, Mood-Congruent Judgment, Mood memory
March 11, 2007 [on-line] @

About the Theorist
Gordon Bower is a cognitive psychologist specializing in experimental studies of human memory, language comprehension, emotion, and behavior modification. He received his Ph.D. in learning theory from Yale University in 1959. He has been on the Stanford faculty ever since, being honored with the A. R. Lang Chair Professorship in 1975. He served several years as Chairman of Stanford’s Psychology Department, which for the past 35 years has had the top-rated graduate program in the nation. He has also served a term at Stanford as Associate Dean of Humanities and Sciences.


When we encode a memory, we not only record the visual and other sensory data, we also store our mood and emotional state. Our present mood thus will affect the memories that are most easily available to us, such that when we are in a good mood we recall good memories (and vice versa). The associative nature of memory also means that we tend to store happy memories in a linked set.

Mood-congruent memory occurs where current mood helps recall of mood-congruent material, regardless of our mood at the time the material was stored. Thus when we are happy, we are more likely to remember happy events.

Mood-dependent memory occurs where the congruence of current mood with the mood at the time of memory storage helps recall of that memory. When we are happy, we are more likely to remember other times when we were happy.

Ryan, Eric, et. al. Mood-Congruent Judgment: Two-Factor Theory of Emotion. March 11, 2007
[on-line] @

About the Theorist
Eric Ryan is a clinical psychologist in Santa Rosa, California, USA. He is proficient in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Psychodynamic Therapy and Jungian Therapy. He specializes in the Treatment of Anxiety, Depression Life Transition, Adjustment Difficulties, Traumas and Couples Therapy, and presently work on defining Memory Process. Ryan is a member American Psychological Association


Although we reconstruct memory, we can often tell the difference between what is a real memory and what is an imagined memory.

Real memories include more:
• Sensory data. We recall colors, how things physically felt, smells, etc.
• Detail, including irrelevant stuff. Where books were on the bookshelf. What a person at the bus stop looked like. etc.
• Association, such that the memories logically link to other memories and events.
• Logic. Imagined memories can be impossible.
We can also get confused and turn an imagined memory into what we think is a real memory. Repeated thinking about something can add the necessary detail.

Johnson. M. K., et. al. Imagined Memory Theory. March 11, 2007
[on-line] @ /explanations/theories/imagined_memory.htm

About the Theorist
Marcia K. Johnson, a professor of Psychology in Yale University, is a leader in the field of human memory research. Her early work focused on the relation between comprehension and memory, especially constructive and reconstructive mental processes. She earned a B.A. and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of California at Berkeley. She was at the State University of New York at Stony Brook 1970-1985, rising through the ranks from assistant to full professor. Johnson was professor of psychology at Princeton University before coming to Yale in 2000. She served as acting chair of Yale’s Department of Psychology in the spring of 2003 and is a member of the advisory committee for the Magnetic Resonance Research Center at the School of Medicine.


It can be embarrassing when things happen unexpectedly. To cover up this embarrassment we will tend to view things, which have already happened as being relatively inevitable and predictable.
This can be caused by the reconstructive nature of memory. When we look back, we do not have perfect memory and tend to ‘fill in the gaps’.
This is also known as the ‘I-knew-it-all-along’ effect, reflecting a common response to surprise.
Hindsight bias can be reduced when people stop to think carefully about the causes of the surprise. It is also important to consider how other things might have happened.

Fischhoff, Baruch. Hindsight Bias Theory. March 11, 2007
[on-line] @ /explanations/theories/hindsight_bias.htm

About the Theorist
Baruch Fischhoff, Ph.D., is Howard Heinz University Professor, in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds a B.S. in mathematics and psychology from Wayne State University and a MA and Ph.D. in psychology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and has served on some two dozen NAS/NRC/IOM committees. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and recipient of its Early Career Awards for Distinguished Scientific Contribution to Psychology and for Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest. He is a Fellow of the Society for Risk Analysis and recipient of its Distinguished Achievement Award. Dr. Fischhoff’s research includes risk perception and communication, risk management, adolescent decision making, medical informed consent, and environmental protection.


Counterfactual thinking is thinking about a past that did not happen. This often happens in ‘if only…’ situations, where we wish something had or had not happened.
This can be so powerful we can change our own memories, adjusting the facts and creating new memories. It can happen to cover up trauma or may be just excuses to avoid facing uncomfortable truths. It can also be to explain what is otherwise unexplainable.

This effect is increased by:
• Replication: if we can easily reconstruct events as happened or as wished for.
• Closeness: if the unwanted event is close, such as just missing winning the lottery by one number or just missing a taxi.
• Exception: if the event occurred because of a non-routine action that might well not have happened (‘if only…’).
• Controllability: if something could have been done to avoid the event.
• Action: in the short term, we regret actions that cause problems more than inaction that might have the same effect (although in the longer term, this effect is reversed).
We can also do the reverse, thinking about bad things that did not happen, such as when we narrowly avoid being in an accident. Counterfactual thinking often happens around situations of perceived ‘luck’.

Kahneman and Tversky . Counterfactual Thinking Theory. March 11, 2007
[on-line] @ /explanations/theories/counterfactual_thinking.htm

About the Theorist
Amos Tversky (March 16, 1937 – June 2, 1996) was a pioneer of cognitive science, a longtime collaborator of Daniel Kahneman, and a key figure in the discovery of systematic human cognitive bias and handling of risk. With Kahneman, he originated prospect theory to explain irrational human economic choices. He received his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1965, and later taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, before moving to Stanford University. In 1984 he was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship.

Amos Tversky was married to Barbara Tversky, presently a professor in the human development department at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Reaction On Theories On Memory

I. Network Theory

This theory states that human brain has nodes that keep our memory. The said nodes could be neither semantic nor affective. Moreover, it acclaims that humans have specific nodes on various emotions. For instance, we have a node for happiness, which keep all our happy memories.

II. Mood Memory Theory

This states that our mood will affect the memories that are mo easily to us. For instance, when we are in a happy mood we tend to recall other times when we are happy. It has further stated that our memory process is divided into two, such as mood congruent memory and mood dependent memory.

III. Imagine Memory Theory

This theory highlighted the ability of the mind to reconstruct our memory. As a result, we tend to differ between real and imagined memory. Real memories include the following: sensory data, detail, association, and logic. While imaginary memory occurs when we get confused into what is real.

IV. Hindsight Bias Theory

This theory proposes that our brain has a reconstructive nature of memory. It states that we don’t have a perfect memory and we tend to fill in the gaps through ‘I knew it all along’ effect. Hindsight bias consider the causes of surprise as a result of the said effect, and thus the memory process happens.

V. Counterfactual Thinking Theory

This theory says that our memory is affected by thinking about a past that did not happen. This notion could be powerful that we tend to change our memories, adjusting the facts and creating new memories. For instance, it can happen to cover up trauma. It involves the following processes: replication, closeness, exception, controllability, and action.

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