, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 3-14

Robert Hooke’s model of memory


In 1682 the scientist and inventor Robert Hooke read a lecture to the Royal Society of London, in which he described a mechanistic model of human memory. Yet few psychologists today seem to have heard of Hooke’s memory model. The lecture addressed questions of encoding, memory capacity, repetition, retrieval, and forgetting—some of these in a surprisingly modern way. Hooke’s model shares several characteristics with the theory of Richard Semon, which came more than 200 years later, but it is more complete. Among the model’s interesting properties are that (1) it allows for attention and other top-down influences on encoding; (2) it uses resonance to implement parallel, cue-dependent retrieval; (3) it explains memory for recency; (4) it offers a single-system account of repetition priming; and (5) the power law of forgetting can be derived from the model’s assumptions in a straightforward way.