The mnemonic functions of episodic memory

Philosophical Psychology 35 (3):327-349 (2022)
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Abstract

Episodic memory is the form of memory involved in remembering personally experienced past events. Here, I address two questions about episodic memory’s function: what does episodic memory do for us, and why do we have it? Recent work addressing these questions has emphasized episodic memory’s role in imaginative simulation, criticizing the mnemonic view on which episodic memory is “for” remembering. In this paper, I offer a defense of the mnemonic view by highlighting an underexplored mnemonic function of episodic memory – namely, its role in the encoding, storage and retrieval of the type of information more standardly associated with semantic memory. I argue that in healthy individuals, episodic memory plays a central role in the encoding, storage and retrieval of prototypically semantic information, analogous to the role played by mind palaces in the method of loci, and may have been selected on for this reason. This suggests new directions for studying episodic memory, particularly in nonhuman animals.

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Alexandria Boyle
London School of Economics