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WIREs Cogn Sci
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What memory is

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I argue that our current practice of ascribing the term ‘memory’ to mental states and processes lacks epistemic warrant. Memory, according to the ‘received view’, is any state or process that results from the sequential stages of encoding, storage, and retrieval. By these criteria, memory, or its footprint, can be seen in virtually every mental state we are capable of having. This, I argue, stretches the term to the breaking point. I draw on phenomenological, historical, and conceptual considerations to make the case that an act of memory entails a direct, non‐inferential feeling of reacquaintance with one's past. It does so by linking content retrieved from storage with autonoetic awareness during retrieval. On this view, memory is not the content of experience, but the manner in which that content is experienced. I discuss some theoretical and practical implications and advantages of adopting this more circumscribed view of memory. WIREs Cogn Sci 2015, 6:1–38. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1333

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