Faculty Presentation: Lael J. Schooler (Berlin)
A few theorists, ranging from William James to contemporary psychologists, have argued that forgetting should not be seen as a nuisance but as key to the proper working of human memory. In the context of David Marr's functional approach to understanding cognition, I will discuss the rational analysis of memory (Anderson & Schooler, 2000), which holds that much of memory performance, including forgetting, might be understood as adaptation to the structure of the environment. Schooler & Hertwig (2005) proposed that forgetting may in addition prove beneficial for making judgments that depend on whether objects are recognized and the speed of this recognition. For example, you could predict which of two candidates is likely to win an election based on the heuristic that if you recognize one but not the other, then predict the recognized one will win. To explore the mechanisms by which forgetting could boost the efficiency of such memory based inference heuristics, I describe a modeling and empirical effort that bridges two research programs grounded in an appreciation of the adaptive value of human cognition: The program on fast and frugal heuristics explores cognitive processes that use limited information to make effective decisions (Gigerenzer, Todd, & the ABC Research Group, 1999); and the ACT-R research program (Anderson & Lebiere, 1998) that strives for a unified theory of cognition, a language in which to implement cognitive models. I will show how the ignorance that forgetting brings can, paradoxically, enhance inferences about real objects in the world.
Dr Lael J. Schooler, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
All are welcome!