Aphantasia, SDAM, and Episodic Memory

Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 28:9-32 (2019)
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Episodic memory (EM) involves re-experiencing past experiences by means of mental imagery. Aphantasics (who lack mental imagery) and people with severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM) lack the ability to re-experience, which would imply that they don't have EM. However, aphantasics and people with SDAM have personal and affective memories, which are other defining aspects of EM (in addition to re-experiencing). This suggests that these supposed aspects of EM really are independent faculties or modules of memory, and that EM is a composite faculty rather than a natural kind. Apparent varieties of (normal and "defective") EM (as well as some closely related kinds of memory) are different combinations of these modules, and the EM construct itself adds little if any explanatory value to these modules.

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Lajos L. Brons
University of Groningen (PhD)