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Reading: Speculations on the Origin of STM


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Research Article

Speculations on the Origin of STM


Joachim Hoffmann

Department of Psychology, University of Würzburg, DE
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Memory generally is understood as being “a system for storing and retrieving information” (e.g. Baddeley, 1997, p.9). Accordingly, memory has been investigated almost exclusively by presenting some stimulus materials to the participants, such as a list of words or a series of pictures, and by testing the ability of the participants to retrieve the stimuli after some time. However, memory is more than the ability to reproduce earlier presented word lists or to recognize earlier presented pictures. In some sense memory is involved in any activity we perform. Already perceiving is in essence recognition. When we see a birch, the visual stimulus activates what we know about birches: how they look like, the features they possess, and how they are called. Likewise, acting is also in essence recall. When we sign a document, we have to recall how to move our hand in order to produce the signature; the same is true for walking, speaking, and every other activity we are familiar with. We always have to reproduce what to do in order to attain the intended goal. Under this broader perspective, memory not only refers to storing and retrieving information but to the preservation of experiences in general. In other words, memory underlies aftereffects of current experiences on future behaviour. This general description resembles very much the definition typically used for learning. Thus, it appears that learning and memory are not distinct processes but rather two different sides of one and the same coin.
How to Cite: Hoffmann, J., 2010. Speculations on the Origin of STM. Psychologica Belgica, 50(3-4), pp.175–191. DOI:
Published on 01 Oct 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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