Memory Research: What Kind of Progress?
Understanding the human mind is an arduous task, rendered especially frustrating because of our intimate familiarity with what we are trying to understand. From personal experience, we know exceedingly well what the mind can do, the broad range of its fantastic capabilities; we are also very much aware of its limitations. Yet its understanding-why and how does it do what it does-has so far eluded us. Countless scholars, sages, and scientists have devoted their lifetimes to the study of the mind in its many manifestations, and they have written countless books and articles about it; but the fruits of their labors have been somewhat less than spectacular. Psychological study of memory, by and large, has shared a similar fate. After over two thousand years of rational speculation and a hundred years of experimental study, we can point to few achievements that promise to be of relatively permanent value. The question may be asked, therefore, as to what kind of progress we have made in understanding memory.