Nature and function of episodic memory
Collaborator: Markus Werning, Thomas Suddendorf

FOR 2812

Colloquially, episodic memory is described as “the memory of personally experienced events”. Even though episodic memory has been studied in psychology and neuroscience for several decades, there is still great uncertainty as to what episodic memory is and what function it might serve. Within the research unit FOR 2812, we are working on an interdisciplinary framework for episodic memory. We conceptualize the retrieval of episodic memory as the construction of a scenario based on episodic memory traces, which are particular to an episode, and semantic information, which are generic. Scenario construction accounts for many observed features of episodic memory, such as for example the unreliable retrieval of details, offers opportunities for extracting information that was not explicitly encoded during the experience, and allows for manipulating memory content to conform to social norms and the self-model. While the social function is probably key to human episodic memory, in our computational studies, we focus on directive functions of episodic memory: inference, prediction and semantic learning.


    in press

  • Gedächtnisverbesserung: Möglichkeiten und kritische Betrachtung
    Cheng, S.
    In F. Hüttemann & Liggieri, K. (Eds.), Die Grenze "Mensch". Diskurse des Transhumanismus. Bielefeld: transcript Verlag
  • 2023

  • Solidity Meets Surprise: Cerebral and Behavioral Effects of Learning from Episodic Prediction Errors
    Siestrup, S., Jainta, B., Cheng, S., & Schubotz, R. I.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 35(2), 291–313
  • Modeling the function of episodic memory in spatial learning
    Zeng, X., Diekmann, N., Wiskott, L., & Cheng, S.
    Frontiers in Psychology, 14
  • 2022

  • Where was the toaster? A systematic investigation of semantic construction in a new virtual episodic memory paradigm
    Zöllner, C., Klein, N., Cheng, S., Schubotz, R. I., Axmacher, N., & Wolf, O. T.
    Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 174702182211166
  • What Happened When? Cerebral Processing of Modified Structure and Content in Episodic Cueing
    Siestrup, S., Jainta, B., El-Sourani, N., Trempler, I., Wurm, M. F., Wolf, O. T., et al.
    Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 34(7), 1287–1305
  • 2021

  • Self-referential false associations: A self-enhanced constructive effect for verbal but not pictorial stimuli
    Wang, J., Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., & Cheng, S.
    Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(9), 1512–1524
  • 2018

  • Doing without metarepresentation: Scenario construction explains the epistemic generativity and privileged status of episodic memory
    Werning, M., & Cheng, S.
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41, e34
  • 2017

  • Consolidation of Episodic Memory: An Epiphenomenon of Semantic Learning
    Cheng, S.
    In N. Axmacher & Rasch, B. (Eds.), Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Consolidation (pp. 57–72) Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing
  • Taxonomy and Unity of Memory
    Werning, M., & Cheng, S.
    In S. Bernecker & Michaelian, K. (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Memory (pp. 7–20) New York: Routledge
  • 2016

  • What is episodic memory if it is a natural kind?
    Cheng, S., & Werning, M.
    Synthese, 193(5), 1345–1385
  • Dissociating memory traces and scenario construction in mental time travel
    Cheng, S., Werning, M., & Suddendorf, T.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 60, 82–89
  • 2014

  • Is Episodic Memory a Natural Kind?-A Defense of the Sequence Analysis
    Werning, M., & Cheng, S.
    In P. Bello, Guarini, M., McShane, M., & Scassellati, B. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (Vol. 2, pp. 964–69) Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society

The Institut für Neuroinformatik (INI) is a central research unit of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. We aim to understand the fundamental principles through which organisms generate behavior and cognition while linked to their environments through sensory systems and while acting in those environments through effector systems. Inspired by our insights into such natural cognitive systems, we seek new solutions to problems of information processing in artificial cognitive systems. We draw from a variety of disciplines that include experimental approaches from psychology and neurophysiology as well as theoretical approaches from physics, mathematics, electrical engineering and applied computer science, in particular machine learning, artificial intelligence, and computer vision.

Universitätsstr. 150, Building NB, Room 3/32
D-44801 Bochum, Germany

Tel: (+49) 234 32-28967
Fax: (+49) 234 32-14210