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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012 Mar;14(1):7-18.

Constructive memory: past and future.

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 02138, USA.


Human memory is not a literal reproduction of the past, but instead relies on constructive processes that are sometimes prone to error and distortion. Understanding of constructive memory has accelerated during recent years as a result of research that has linked together its cognitive and neural bases. This article focuses on three aspects of constructive memory that have been the target of recent research: (i) the idea that certain kinds of memory distortions reflect the operation of adaptive cognitive processes that contribute to the efficient functioning of memory; (ii) the role of a constructive memory system in imagining or simulating possible future events; and (iii) differences between true and false memories that have been revealed by functional neuroimaging techniques. The article delineates the theoretical implications of relevant research, and also considers some clinical and applied implications.


episodic memory; episodic simulation; false memory; future thinking; hippocampus; memory distortion; neuroimaging

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