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Am Psychol. 1992 Apr;47(4):559-69.

Understanding implicit memory. A cognitive neuroscience approach.

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  • Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.


Dissociations between implicit and explicit memory have attracted considerable attention in recent memory research. A central issue concerns whether such dissociations require the postulation of separate memory systems or are best understood in terms of different processes operating within a single system. This article presents a cognitive neuroscience approach to implicit memory in general and the systems-processes debate in particular, which draws on evidence from research with brain-damaged patients, neuroimaging techniques, and nonhuman primates. The article illustrates how a cognitive neuroscience orientation can help to supply a basis for postulating memory systems, can provide useful constraints for processing views, and can encourage the use of research strategies that the author refers to as cross-domain hypothesis testing and cross-domain hypothesis generation, respectively. The cognitive neuroscience orientation suggests a complementary role for multiple systems and processing approaches.

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