Our Memory System Is Adapted To Helping Us Raise Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Cute babies” by daily sunny is licensed under CC BY 2.0Benjamin M. Seitz
Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology, Learning & Behavior
University of California, Los Angeles

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?


Response: The adaptive memory literature is based on two crucial theories.

The first is that we process information on different ‘levels’ and these different levels of processing information strongly influence our ability to later remember that information.

The second is that our evolutionary history has shaped our cognitive abilities and that these abilities therefore perform optimally when performing tasks related to evolutionary fitness. It has been established that processing words based on their relevancy to an imagined ancestral survival scenario yields incredible memory performance far superior than processing those same words based on their relevancy to similar imagined scenarios that do not involve the survival element or ancestral environment.

Our study demonstrates that thinking about raising offspring in an ancestral environment while processing words leads to a similar benefit to recall of those words as when thinking about survival, suggesting the human memory system while also useful in helping our species survive may have also been particularly useful in helping us raise our offspring.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: People often assume their memory system works, or at least should work, like a tape recorder in that memories will be accurate depictions of real events and treat all aspects of an event equally. Our study adds to a growing narrative that not only does our memory system alter information that it stores but also that our memory system has been shaped by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to prioritize remembering certain information over others. What’s more, our parenting abilities seem to have played an incredibly special role in our evolutionary history and may have uniquely shaped our cognitive abilities in ways we are not yet fully aware of.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We are curious in exploring the extent to which this parent processing generalizes. Does this memory benefit only work when thinking about raising your own child or does it generalize to raising any child or even any biological being like a pet dog? What’s more, the adaptive memory literature has demonstrated that there are reliable ways of encoding information that yield superior retention of this information. Those who study the neurological basis of memory should utilize these established parameters to help understand the underlying mechanisms that are associated with such large benefits to memory.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Seitz, B.M., Polack, C.W., & Miller, R.R. (In Press) Adaptive Memory: Is There a Reproduction-Processing Effect? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, DOI: 10.1037/xlm0000513

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on December 18, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD