Introduction

We use the information stored in long-term memory in several ways. For example, we recognise the face of a friend across the room, or we recall the main events of our last summer holiday. Some of the processes involved in recall and recognition were considered in Chapter 6. However, we may also use stored information to ride a bicycle, to play the piano, or to realise that the word "toboggan" fits the word fragment _ O _ O _ GA _. Theories of long-term memory used to be rather limited, focusing mainly on recall and recognition. In this chapter, we will consider more recent theories that have considered long-term memory in a broader perspective.

Several contemporary theories of long-term memory are discussed in this chapter. These theories originally seemed to be clearly different from each other. However, the reader should be warned that these theories gradually seem to be coming together. This can be regarded as desirable, because it reflects the natural concerns of the theorists to account adequately for the accumulating data. The disadvantage is that it is becoming harder to discriminate among theories, and to decide which theories are more or less satisfactory than others.

The other main ingredient in this chapter is a consideration of research on amnesia. It is important to identify the precise nature of the problems experienced by amnesic patients, and to try to help them to overcome those problems. Research on amnesia is also important for two other reasons. First, it has provided a good test-bed for existing theories of normal memory. In other words, data from amnesic patients can strengthen or weaken the experimental support for memory theories. Second, as we will see, amnesia research has led to new theoretical developments. Studies of amnesia have suggested theoretical distinctions which then proved to be of relevance to an understanding of memory in normal individuals.

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