Adaptive memory: Simulating the future and forgetting the past
Roland G. Benoit
Max Planck Research Group – Adaptive Memory, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
This presentation examines two adaptive facets of episodic memory. In the first part, I will show how we can simulate the future by drawing on knowledge of the past. I will further explore the influence of such episodic simulation on decisions and real-life attitudes. In particular, I will focus on the contribution of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. In the second part, I will discuss how we can voluntarily forget unwanted memories. I will provide evidence that targeted attempts to suppress the retrieval of unwanted memories can reduce the vividness with which they later can be recalled and eventually cause forgetting. I will show how such a reduction in vividness goes along with an attenuation of associated emotional responses and possibly a deterioration of parahippocampal memory representations. Finally (and time permitting), I will take a bird’s eye view on the field of memory suppression by meta-analyzing some of the evidence for voluntary forgetting. By this, I will also ponder the question whether suppression constitutes a beneficial coping mechanism. Together, the two parts thus highlight processes that make memory adaptive, enabling us to imagine the future and to forget the unwanted past.