An exploration into enactive forms of forgetting

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 20 (4):703-722 (2021)
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Abstract

Remembering and forgetting are the two poles of the memory system. Consequently, any approach to memory should be able to explain both remembering and forgetting in order to gain a comprehensive and insightful understanding of the memory system. Can an enactive approach to memory processes do so? In this article I propose a possible way to provide a positive answer to this question. In line with some current enactive approaches to memory, I suggest that forgetting –similarly to remembering– might be constituted within an embodied and active process. Within this process, some simulation and re-enactment paths would acquire more relevance than others. This acquired relevance would make the activation of other paths of recall less likely, thus preventing the memory system from engaging in some episodic simulations. These changes in the likelihood of activation of some paths of recall –the forgotten ones– can be accounted for in an enactive fashion by studying both “internal” and “external” re-enactment and simulation paths. With regard to the latter, I propose to examine the process of forgetting by considering the engagement and affective relation of an embodied agent with her field of affordances. I suggest that, in the case of emotion-laden memories, the agent’s decoupling from some affordances of the environment might contribute to the process of forgetting, in that it would reduce the agent’s opportunities for situated episodic simulations.

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Marta Caravà
Purdue University