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If God Handed Us the Ground-Truth Theory of Memory, How Would We Recognize It?


Popov, Vencislav (2023). If God Handed Us the Ground-Truth Theory of Memory, How Would We Recognize It? Social and Behavioral Sciences; Cognitive Psychology; Memory ay5cm, Cornell University.

Abstract

What makes a scientific theory convincing? We have many formal models of human memory, but no agreement about which is the right one. If anything, we agree that they are all wrong. By analyzing the properties of successful theories in physics, I propose that we will be convinced by a theory of memory only when it is able to make precise point predictions for individual people’s behavior in any new memory task, manipulation, or paradigm we could construct, without refitting parameters to do so or only by estimating its parameters for each individual on an independent standardized battery of tests. Such a theory would not only be able to accurately describe lab-based empirical effects but would also be practically useful. I highlight how some of our current model development and evaluation practices might be holding us back and outline some important empirical steps necessary to evaluate theories by this standard.

Abstract

What makes a scientific theory convincing? We have many formal models of human memory, but no agreement about which is the right one. If anything, we agree that they are all wrong. By analyzing the properties of successful theories in physics, I propose that we will be convinced by a theory of memory only when it is able to make precise point predictions for individual people’s behavior in any new memory task, manipulation, or paradigm we could construct, without refitting parameters to do so or only by estimating its parameters for each individual on an independent standardized battery of tests. Such a theory would not only be able to accurately describe lab-based empirical effects but would also be practically useful. I highlight how some of our current model development and evaluation practices might be holding us back and outline some important empirical steps necessary to evaluate theories by this standard.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:4 January 2023
Deposited On:09 May 2023 11:47
Last Modified:09 May 2023 11:47
Series Name:Social and Behavioral Sciences; Cognitive Psychology; Memory
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/ay5cm
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)