The Influence of Modern Technology on Cognitive Theories of Human Memory

A short essay looking at how modern technology has had an influence on theories of human memory. In what way have technologies alowed for improved metphors of human memory, how have these metaphord changed with adcancing technology. Quite an interesting short essay written in an academic style.

What is the influence of metaphors on the development of scientific theories of the mind?


Many psychologists have used metaphors in explaining the workings of the mind; however there is debate as to whether they can be seen as having a significant influence on the development of scientific theories. These metaphors can be seen in key areas of psychology. Freud (cited in Roediger 1980) used the metaphor of a house with two rooms to explain the theory of the conscious and unconscious mind with the unconscious being a ante-room and the conscious being a reception with a doorman between the two deciding what gets in and out. Similarly Plato described memory as a ‘birdcage’ with memories as the birds. When we are bourn it is empty but as we acquire information it is filled. Trying to recall a memory is like trying to catch one of the birds, it is there and available but can sometimes be difficult to get hold of due to interference (birds flying about). These metaphors are used as it is largely unknown or very difficult to prove what really taking place inside the mind, Freud can not prove the existence of the conscious/unconscious mind and Plato can not fully understand how memory works so it is explained in a way that can be understood.

Metaphors tend to be a stepping stone to the development of theories and scientific investigation, Pribram (1971) (cited in Roediger 1980) suggested memories were like a hologram made up on many small separate particles, memories were not stored just in one location in the brain but rather small bit of information come from all over the brain to form the memory. This simple metaphor for memory could lead to further research looking at brain damage and how it affects the retrieval of memories, depending on the results it may well result in new theories of memory being formed. This is just one example of how metaphors can be influential in psychology. However this is not always the case, if we look at Freud’s metaphor above we see that rather than the metaphor leading to the development of a theory, the theory (levels of consciences) has lead to the development of a metaphor, this is because often psychological metaphors can help to explain complicated theories.

The use of metaphors have produced two broad theories of memory, these are the structural view and the proceduralist view. The structuralist view looks at memory as space which we then proceed to fill with memories, many different metaphors have led to the development of this view including Plato’s aviary, Augustine’s cave and more recently the cow analogy (Hintzman 1974). In comparison the proceduralist view looks at the way in which memories are created and re-created in the mind rather than looking for where they are stored (Crowder 1993), a metaphor for this view came from Wechsler (1963) (cited in Ian Neath, Aimee M.Surprnant 2003) he likened memory to a melody, a melody is not contained within an instrument but is released by playing the right notes. So memory is not stored within the mind but can be produced with the correct cues.

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