Association for Behavior Analysis International

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42nd Annual Convention; Downtown Chicago, IL; 2016

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #204
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Adaptive Memory: Remembering With a Stone-Age Brain

Monday, May 30, 2016
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
Grand Ballroom AB, Hyatt Regency, Gold East
Area: SCI; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Basic
CE Instructor: Peter Urcuioli, Ph.D.
Chair: Peter Urcuioli (Purdue University)
JAMES NAIRNE (Purdue University)
James S. Nairne, Ph.D., is the Reece McGee distinguished professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He received his undergraduate training at the University of California at Berkeley and his PhD in psychology from Yale University. His original training was in Pavlovian conditioning, but his current research specialty is human memory. He is a fellow of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Association for Psychological Science, and the Midwestern Psychological Society. His editorial positions have included Editor-in-Chief of Memory & Cognition, Associate Editor for the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review and the Journal of Memory and Language, and he has served on numerous editorial boards. He was the recipient of the 2000 Excellence in Education Award from Purdue University and the 2001 Charles B. Murphy award. In 2003 Dr. Nairne was inducted into the Book of Great Teachers. He is also the author of a popular introductory textbook, Psychology: The Adaptive Mind (now in its sixth edition), as well as many influential articles and book chapters in his research specialty.

Human memory evolved subject to the constraints of nature's criterion: differential survival and reproduction. Consequently, our capacity to remember and forget is likely tuned to solving fitness-based problems, particularly those prominent in ancestral environments. Do the operating characteristics of memory continue to bear the footprint of nature's criterion? Are there mnemonic "tunings" rooted in the remnants of a stone-age brain? Work from the presenter's laboratory suggests that: (1) processing information for its survival relevance leads to superior long-term retention, better, in fact, than most known learning techniques; (2) animate (living) stimuli are remembered much better than matched inanimate (nonliving) stimuli; and (3) stimuli that have been potentially contaminated by disease are remembered especially well. Understanding how memory is used to solve adaptive problems relevant to fitness, the presenter argues, provides critical insight into how and why human memory systems formed, and why they work the way they do.

Target Audience:

Licensed Psychologists, certified behavior analysts, graduate students.

Learning Objectives: At the end of the event, the participant will be able to: (1) describe the basic tenets of an evolutionary approach to human memory; (2) discuss whether "survival processing" is best characterized as an adaptation or an exaptation; (3) describe the empirical evidence that supports a mnemonic “tuning” for animacy and contamination.



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