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The third way to remembering and memory

            -Neither storage nor construction but body-environment contact-

The slides and texts below were presented at the 16 the Biennial Conference of International Society for Theoretical Psychology (Coventry, U.K., 27th June, 2015). We held a symposium "Embodied memory and beyond: The development of a new perspective to memory and remembering".  The presentation was part of it.

 In this presentation, I will attempt to propose a new theory of remembering. 

This is contents of my presentation. 

    First, some weakness of dominant theories of remembering and memory is identified. Then I will offer some findings in our practical and experimental studies to introduce a new theory. 

    One of key concepts of the new theory proposed here is ‘persistent body’, which secures the temporality, the identity of remembering.  

    ‘Persistent body’ is integrated with other key concepts -dualisation and semantic/syntactic regulation- to construct the new and third theory of remembering and memory. It is an extended version of James Gibson’s ecological theory of perception. 

There are two theories in remembering and memory research. They are old but still dominant in the field.

    One is ‘Storage theory’, which has belonged to the main stream of experimental psychology since Herrmann Ebbinghaus. This theory considers remembering as retrieval of stored memory traces. But it has faced much criticism; for example, Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein; one of his pupils Norman Malcolm, whose work of memory is famous; and Frederic Bartlett. 

    The worst weakness of this theory is its lack of a concept of temporality because memory traces themselves are timeless.

The second dominant theory is ‘Social construction theory’. I partly agree with this approach because it acknowledges the important role of social mediation and successfully avoid the alienation of memory from rememberers by abandoning the conception of stored traces.

    But again, I have to point out its lack of temporal nature of remembering. The temporality should be the essential for remembering which distinguishes it from other cognitive activities.

Here, I will show you some findings which I and my colleagues found. Because of these findings, a new theory of remembering, which contains the temporal nature, should be proposed.

    Ohashi, Mori, Takagi, & Matsushima, they are all Japanese found that signs of real experiences appear on different narrative styles from that of fake experiences -imagination or information heard from other people-. Mori(2008) also confirmed the same kind of phenomena by his experimental study. They suggest that those sings telling the veracity of experiences appear on narrative styles, which is bodily movement, that is produced by the rememberers’ persistent body through time, from their experience just remembered to here & now where remembering is performed. 

    The concept of ‘persistent body’ is one of keys to construct a new theory of remembering that will be proposed later. 

Let’s make sure what ‘persistent body’ is here.

    ‘Persistent body’ is our own body that has been and is contacting to the environment surrounding us. ‘Persistent body’ opens to the future. It means that we have several options and possibilities for perception and action before us. What will happen next can be just expected and never known after it’s realised. 

    ‘Persistent body’ through the stream of time consists of our experience. Perception, action and remembering occur on our persistent body contacting to environment. James Gibson and their pupils as well as their colleagues have been intensively studied how perception and action occur on our persistent body, and established an ecological theory of perception and action, though they, often called Gibsonians, have not use a term of ‘persistent body’.  

Then we will consider how remembering occurs on our persistent body. It leads us to the construction of a new theory of remembering and memory. 

    It is an extended version of Gibson’s ecological theory of perception. The new theory needs another two concepts to integrate with ‘persistent body’: Dualisation and Semantic/syntactic regulation.  

    ‘Dualisation’ is our faculty to cognitively make nested structures of events in our environment and self. The event of ‘My presentation now’ is included in a larger event of ‘My second day of the Congress’. It is noted here that events have two complementary aspects of ‘environment contacted by our body’ and ‘phenomenal self originating from their contact’. So, dualisation also occurs on the both aspects like ‘Presenting me’ is included as a sub-part within ‘Participating me in the Congress’.

    Remembering becomes possible when we successfully dualise nested events.

Another function necessary to remember is ‘Semantic/syntactic regulation’, originating from Japanese theoretical biologist Koichiro Matsuno’s works.


    ‘Semantic/syntactic regulation’ is exploration and specification of nested events under some boundary conditions of remembering. It contains exploratory activity as well as performatory activity in Gibsonian terms. The former is cognitive one and the latter is physical, especially verbal one that change the environment where remembering is being performed.  

    Requests and reports of remembering often given by words set boundary conditions that constraint and control the process of remembering. Already specified events during current remembering also become new boundary conditions. We have to perform remembering with satisfying those conditions. 

    Following such kinds of boundary conditions, rememberers are exploring proper events to their persistent body here and now. This process should be considered ‘tuning process’, tuning our persistent body to dualised environment/self under the current boundary conditions, dynamic and emergent process, rather than static and reproductive retrieval of targeted events.  

Let’s integrate three functions -‘persistent body’, ‘Dalisation’, and ‘Semantic/syntactic regulation’- to delineate a process of remembering. Remembering is microgenetic process proceeding in the following way. 

    Remembering starts when our orientation to trajectory of our life becomes difficult. Difficulties are often produced by requests of others to remember something. At this point, we are required a task of reorientation of ourselves by recognising preceeding events to be remembered belong to our persistent body here and now.   

    The second stage is the exploration of nested events when ‘dualisation’ is going on. The third stage is the specification of dual events as targeted ones. And the forth stage is verbal expression of the process in which words guide information picking up needed to specify dual events. Those three stages are actually reciprocal and circulative process. 

    The fifth and last stage is report of results of the process. Although the last one is often considered as remembering, it is mistaken. Remembering has to be considered ‘process’. It is also mistaken that those stages from the second to the forth are seen as retrieval which is only transfer of stored traces.

This is an imaginary case of microgenetic remembering intensively discussed above. 

    This is a situation in which I am requested to remember something at the front row of the trajectory of life shown earlier (the same one in the next slide). I start remembering with satisfying a boundary condition expressed in the question: Reasons of ‘the energetic me’. I distinguish two nested events by successfully dualising the trajectory and regulation, and then find an event of my change of feeling ‘Worry to relief’. This is the 1st. dualisation and regulation.

    The second dualisation and regulation is occuring under another boundary condition of the newly specified event (‘My change of feeling’).  And I find an event that caused that new event of possible cause of my change: ‘Brady’s encouragement’. And the third dualisation and regulation is following to make me sure it was Brady who encouraged me by specifying my encounter to him just after my entry to the venue.   

    Because this is imaginary case, I have to observe some real cases and hypothesise how dualisation and regulation happen and proceed. I think it is useful to apply some experimental controls, as Gibson did in his perception studies, in order to specify details of that process.  

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