Proximate mechanisms and the development of adaptive memory

M.L. Howe*, H. Otgaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Scientific investigations into the functional properties of memory have recently undergone a rapid increase. These studies have revealed that processing stimuli for its survival value results in superior memory performance in children and adults. In this article, we critically evaluate this claim and conclude that survival-processing advantages in childhood and adulthood are not an indication that fitness-relevant information has adaptive priority. Instead, we argue that general memory principles (e.g., item-specific and relational processing, self-referential processing, elaboration and distinctiveness processing) better explain the adaptive function of memory. We stress the importance of these memory processes because they characterize the evolutionary adaptations of memory, are present early in life, and are developmentally invariant.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-22
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


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