What kind of memory has evolution wrought? Introductory Article for the Special Issue of Memory: Adaptive memory: The emergence and nature of proximate mechanisms

H.P. Otgaar*, M.L. Howe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


It is without question that our memory system evolved through a process of natural selection. However, basic research into the evolutionary foundations of memory has begun in earnest only recently. This is quite peculiar as the majority, perhaps even all, of memory research relates to whether memory is adaptive or not. In this Special Issue of Memory we have assembled a variety of papers that represent the cutting edge in research on the evolution of memory. These papers are centred on issues about the ultimate and proximate explanations of memory, the development of the adaptive functions of memory, as well as the positive consequences that arise from the current evolutionary form that our memory has taken. In this introductory article we briefly outline these different areas and indicate why they are vital for a more complete theory of memory. Further we argue that, by adopting a more applied stance in the area of the evolution of memory, one of the many future directions in this field could be a new branch of psychology that addresses questions in evolutionary legal psychology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Early online date4 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2014


  • Adaptive memory
  • Evolution
  • Proximate mechanisms
  • Ultimate mechanisms
  • Memory and the law
  • Applications of memory

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