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.
Doing without metarepresentation: Scenario construction explains the epistemic generativity and privileged status of episodic memory