The hidden depth of memory

What clues does our memory use to connect a current situation to a situation from the past? The results of a study conducted by Lucas Raynal, Évelyne Clément and Emmanuel Sander contrast sharply with the explanations found until now in the existing literature. The researchers have demonstrated that similarities in structure and essence (the heart of a situation) guide our recollections rather than surface similarities (the general theme, for example, or the setting or protagonists). It is only when individuals lack sufficient knowledge that they turn to the surface clues – the easiest to access – to recollect a situation. These results, published in the journal Acta Psychologica, are particularly relevant in the field of education. They underline the need to focus on the conceptual aspects of situations that are tackled in class to help pupils make use of the relevant features, and not to be misled by apparent similarities.

Raynal, L., Clément, E., & Sander, E. (2020). Are Superficially Dissimilar Analogs better retrieved than Superficially Similar Disanalogs?. Acta Psychologica, 203, 102989.