chapter  19
Survival processing effect
ByMeike Kroneisen, Edgar Erdfelder
Pages 16

Why do we remember? Research on memory is often concerned with the question of how our memory system works. It typically focuses on structural mechanisms, for example, how do we process and store information? How long can we hold information in our working memory? However, when thinking about the question of why human memory exists, it seems unlikely that it only evolved to learn, process, and store abstract information. If our memory system is a solution to adaptive problems, shaped by the process of natural selection, then its structural properties should reflect their functionality (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992). However, what are the adaptive problems human episodic memory was designed to solve? Again, it seems implausible that its function is only to remember the past. It seems more plausible that we need to remember the past to predict the likelihood of events occurring in the future (Suddendorf & Corballis, 1997; Tulving, 2002). Specifically, memory could be designed to retain information relevant to survival, for example, remembering the location of food or water.