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Learning from the Past: Epistemic Generativity and the Function of Episodic Memory

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I argue that the function of episodic memory is to store information about the past, against the orthodox view that it is to support imagining the future. I show that episodic memory is epistemically generative, allowing organisms to learn from past events retroactively. This confers adaptive benefits in three domains: reasoning about the world, skill, and social interaction. Given the role of evolutionary perspectives in comparative research, this argument necessitates a radical shift in the study of episodic memory in nonhumans.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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