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Psychol Rev. 1997 Jan;104(1):148-69.

Processes of memory loss, recovery, and distortion.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA.


The author proposes that many forms of memory distortion, including the progressive changes in recollection of a learning experience often observed over successive tests, are due to the same processes that yield veridical recollection in some circumstances and memory loss and recovery in others. In a framework for interpreting all of these aspects of memory, the author assumes that the objects and events of a learning experience are encoded in parallel in traces of their perceptual attributes, which are basic to recognition, and in traces of reactions made to the events during or following learning, which are basic to recall. Random perturbation of remembered attribute values in both types of traces over retention intervals is a pervasive cause of both loss and distortions of memory.

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