The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The Rememberer

Tulving summarized the relationship between remembered and rememberer in the "encoding specificity principle": remembering depends on the affinity between encoding and decoding. Memories are encoded in a way that depends on the circumstances when the event originally happened. The likelihood of recalling a memory (of decoding it) depends on recreating those circumstances, on reinstating the same psychological state. In other words, the way we feel about an event plays an important role in the way that event can later be recalled. For example, the feeling that I feel when I read a sentence is going to be important for later recalling that sentence. That feeling has become part of the episode, as it is encoded in my memory.

Tulving's episodic memory packages different aspects of an event to give it the "autobiographical" feeling that makes it more than just a retrieval of information, it makes it a memory of something that happened in our life. In other words, an essential part of an episodic memory is the "rememberer". The rememberer does more than retrieve information about a past event: the rememberer experiences that event again. In fact, the episodic memory is more about the feeling of being there than about the event in itself: the feeling of the event is generally recalled in more accurate terms than the details of the event. In fact, it is easier to  remember something that happened a long time ago but had a strong emotional impact on us than something that happened just minutes ago. I do not remember what I had for lunch two days ago, but I do remember episodes of my childhood that happened several decades ago (if I focus, I can even feel what I felt then). Ultimately, episodic memory is about the rememberer, not the remembered.

 


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