Is Remembering to do a Special Kind of Memory?

Abstract

When a person decides to do something in the future, she forms an intention and her intention persists. Philosophers have thought about the rational requirement that an agent’s intention persists until its execution. But philosophers have neglected to think about the causal memory mechanisms that could enable this kind of persistence and its role in rational long-term agency. Our aim of this paper is to fill this gap by arguing that memory for intention is a specific kind of memory. We do this by evaluating and rejecting standard declarative accounts of memory for intention and arguing for the plausibility of an alternative model of memory for intention. We argue for the alternative by spelling out a number of computational principles that could enable retaining and retrieving intentions from long-term memory. These principles could explain a number of core features of intentions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Note that by making this assumption we are assuming that Bratman’s (1987) account of future-directed intentions is largely correct. Consequently, intentions are assumed to be qualitatively different from desires, and what we say about memory for intentions should not be assumed to transfer to an account of the role of desires in temporally extended agency.

  2. 2.

    Concerning standing desires, see Alston (1967, p. 402) and Goldman (1970, pp. 86–88). For a discussion of these sources, see Mele (2003, pp. 30–33). Concerning standing intentions, see Mele 2007.

  3. 3.

    See Altmann and Trafton (2002) for a discussion of “goal stack” models.

  4. 4.

    For empirical support of this point, see Hommel and Wiers 2017.

  5. 5.

    It is by no means implied that these are the only important cognitive features of memory for intention. For instance, as in other types of memory, there might be important constructive processes involved in retrieval and roles for metacognitive assessment in accepting or rejecting a recalled intention. Here we focus on the features that are more closely associated with Bratman’s account of intentions.

  6. 6.

    This sketch is similar to Mele’s proposal for a sufficient condition for standing intentions (Mele 2007, p. 750). Paul (2012) also seems to endorse a similar proposal.

  7. 7.

    For a related way of drawing the distinction, see Naylor 2011.

  8. 8.

    See, for instance, Fernández (2006, p. 43): “Once I appear to be remembering a certain event episodically, the question whether or not I seem to have perceived that event is no longer open.”

  9. 9.

    For related models, see Bundesen 1990; Desimone and Duncan 1995; Logan and Gordon 2001.

References

  1. Alston, W. 1967. Motives and motivation. In The encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. P. Edwards. New York: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Altmann, E.M., and J.G. Trafton. 2002. Memory for goals: An activation-based model. Cognitive Science 26 (1): 39–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson, J.R. 1983. The architecture of cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Atance, C.M., and D.K. O'Neill. 2001. Episodic future thinking. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5 (12): 533–539.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Audi, R. 1994. Dispositional beliefs and dispositions to believe. Noûs 28 (4): 419–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Boag, R.J., L. Strickland, S. Loft, and A. Heathcote. 2019. Strategic attention and decision control support prospective memory in a complex dual-task environment. Cognition 191: 103974.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Boyer, P. 2008. Evolutionary economics of mental time travel? Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (6): 219–224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Brand, M. 1984. Intending and acting: Toward a naturalized action theory. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bratman, M. 1987. Intention, plans, and practical reason. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Bundesen, C. 1990. A theory of visual attention. Psychological Review 97 (4): 523–547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Cook, G.I., J. Rummel, and S. Dummel. 2015. Toward an understanding of motivational influences on prospective memory using value-added intentions. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 9: 278.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cowan, N. 1993. Activation, attention, and short-term memory. Memory & Cognition 21 (2): 162–167.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cowan, N. 2019. Short-term memory based on activated long-term memory: A review in response to Norris (2017). Psychological Bulletin 145 (8): 822–847.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. De Brigard, F. 2017. Memory and imagination. In Routledge handbook of philosophy of memory, ed. S. Bernecker and K. Michaelian, 127–140. Abingdon: Routledge.

  15. Desimone, R., and J. Duncan. 1995. Neural mechanisms of selective visual attention. Annual Review of Neuroscience 18 (1): 193–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Duncan, J. 2001. An adaptive coding model of neural function in prefrontal cortex. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2 (11): 820–829.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Ellis, J., and A. Milne. 1996. Retrieval cue specificity and the realization of delayed intentions. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A 49 (4): 862–887.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Fernandez, J. 2006. The intentionality of memory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84 (1): 39–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fernández, J. 2014. Memory and immunity to error through misidentification. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (3): 373–390.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fuster, J.M., and G.E. Alexander. 1971. Neuron activity related to short-term memory. Science 173 (3997): 652–654.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Gilbert, S.J. 2015. Strategic offloading of delayed intentions into the external environment. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 68: 971–992.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Goldman, A.I. 1970. Theory of human action. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Guynn, M.J. 2003. A two-process model of strategic monitoring in event-based prospective memory: Activation/retrieval mode and checking. International Journal of Psychology 38 (4): 245–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hebb, D.O. 2005. The organization of behavior: A neuropsychological theory. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

  25. Hieronymi, P. 2011. Reasons for action. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3): 407–427.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Hommel, B. 2006. How we do what we want: A Neuro-cognitive perspective on human action planning. In Planning in intelligent systems: Aspects, motivations and methods, ed. W. van Wezel, R. Jorna, and A. Meystel, 27–56. New York: Wiley.

  27. Hommel, B., and R.W. Wiers. 2017. Towards a unitary approach to human action control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 21 (12): 940–949.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Horn, S.S., U.J. Bayen, and R.E. Smith. 2011. What can the diffusion model tell us about prospective memory? Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale 65 (1): 69–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Klein, S.B. 2013. The temporal orientation of memory: It's time for a change of direction. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 2 (4): 222–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Kvavilashvili, L., and G. Mandler. 2004. Out of one’s mind: A study of involuntary semantic memories. Cognitive Psychology 48 (1): 47–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Logan, G.D., and R.D. Gordon. 2001. Executive control of visual attention in dual-task situations. Psychological Review 108 (2): 393–434.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. McDaniel, M.A., and G.O. Einstein. 2000. Strategic and automatic processes in prospective memory retrieval: A multiprocess framework. Applied Cognitive Psychology 14 (7): S127–S144.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. McDaniel, M.A., and G.O. Einstein. 2007. Prospective memory: An overview and synthesis of an emerging field. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

  34. Mele, A.R. 2003. Motivation and agency. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Mele, A.R. 2007. Persisting intentions. Noûs 41 (4): 735–757.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Michaelian, K. 2016. Mental time travel: Episodic memory and our knowledge of the personal past. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Naylor, A. 2011. Remembering-that: Episodic vs. semantic. Philosophical Psychology 24 (3): 317–322.

    Google Scholar 

  38. O’Brien, L. 2003. On knowing one’s own actions. In Agency and self-awareness: Issues in philosophy and psychology, ed. J. Roessler and N. Eilan, 358–382. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  39. O’Brien, L. 2007. Self-knowing agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Paul, S.K. 2012. How we know what we intend. Philosophical Studies 161 (2): 327–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Prinz, W., G. Aschersleben, and I. Koch. 2009. Cognition and action. In The psychology of action, volume 2: Mechanisms of human action, ed. E. Morsella, J.A. Bargh, and P.M. Gollwitzer, 35–71. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Reese, C.M., and K.E. Cherry. 2002. The effects of age, ability, and memory monitoring on prospective memory task performance. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 9 (2): 98–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Schacter, D.L., and D.R. Addis. 2009. Remembering the past to imagine the future: A cognitive neuroscience perspective. Military Psychology 21 (S1): S108–S112.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Schacter, D.L., and E. Tulving. 1994. What are the memory systems of 1994? In Memory systems, ed. D.L. Schacter and E. Tulving, 1–38. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Scullin, M. K., M. A. McDaniel, J. T. Shelton and J. H. Lee. 2010. Focal/nonfocal cue effects in prospective memory: Monitoring difficulty or different retrieval processes? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 36 (3): 736.

  46. Scullin, M.K., and J.M. Bugg. 2013. Failing to forget: Prospective memory commission errors can result from spontaneous retrieval and impaired executive control. Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 39 (3): 965–971.

  47. Scullin, M.K., G.O. Einstein, and M.A. McDaniel. 2009. Evidence for spontaneous retrieval of suspended but not finished prospective memories. Memory & Cognition 37 (4): 425–433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Scullin, M.K., C.A. Kurinec, and K. Nguyen. 2017. The effects of implementation intention strategies on prospective memory cue encoding. Journal of Cognitive Psychology 29 (8): 929–938.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Shoemaker, S. 1970. Persons and their pasts. American Philosophical Quarterly 7 (4): 269–285.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Smith, R.E. 2016. Prospective memory: A framework for research on metaintentions. In The Oxford handbook on Metamemory, ed. J. Dunlosky and S. Tauber. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Smith, R.E., and U.J. Bayen. 2005. The effects of working memory resource availability on prospective memory: A formal modeling approach. Experimental Psychology 52 (4): 243–256.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Spreng, R.N., K.P. Madore, and D.L. Schacter. 2018. Better imagined: Neural correlates of the episodic simulation boost to prospective memory performance. Neuropsychologia 113: 22–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Squire, L.R. 2004. Memory systems of the brain: A brief history and current perspective. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 82 (3): 171–177.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Strickland, L., S. Loft, R.W. Remington, and A. Heathcote. 2018. Racing to remember: A theory of decision control in event-based prospective memory. Psychological Review 125 (6): 851–887.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Tulving, E. 2002. Episodic memory: From mind to brain. Annual Review of Psychology 53 (1): 1–25.

  56. Verbruggen, F., I.P. McLaren, and C.D. Chambers. 2014. Banishing the control homunculi in studies of action control and behavior change. Perspectives on Psychological Science 9 (5): 497–524.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Walter, S., and B. Meier. 2014. How important is importance for prospective memory? A review. Frontiers in Psychology 5: 657.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Wang, X.J. 2001. Synaptic reverberation underlying mnemonic persistent activity. Trends in Neurosciences 24 (8): 455–463.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Werning, M., and S. Cheng. 2017. Taxonomy and Unity of memory. In Routledge handbook of philosophy of memory, ed. S. Bernecker and K. Michaelian, 7–20. Abingdon: Routledge.

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are indebted to Chiara Brozzo, Denis Buehler, John Duncan, Sam Gilbert, Marion Goodman, Julia Haas, Alexander Heape, Andrew Heathcote, Ben Henke, Gordon Logan, Krisztina Orban, Hong Yu Wong, Wayne Wu, and two reviewers for the journal for insightful comments and very helpful discussions of the material. The ideas have been presented at workshops and seminars at ANU, Cambridge, Copenhagen, Grenoble, Tübingen, Munich, and Aarhus, and we are grateful for the feedback we received on those occasions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thor Grünbaum.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Grünbaum, T., Kyllingsbæk, S. Is Remembering to do a Special Kind of Memory?. Rev.Phil.Psych. 11, 385–404 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-020-00479-5

Download citation