Memory & Cognition

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 231–246

Memory metaphors in cognitive psychology

  • Henry L. Roediger

DOI: 10.3758/BF03197611

Cite this article as:
Roediger, H.L. Memory & Cognition (1980) 8: 231. doi:10.3758/BF03197611


In describing memory phenomena in natural language, a spatial metaphor is typically employed. Memories are considered to be objects that are stored in a mind space, and the process of retrieval is conceived as a search for these objects. It is argued that this metaphor has been carried over into many of the popular theories of memory in cognitive psychology and that seemingly diverse theories employ the same underlying set of assumptions. A survey of the analogies that have been used to explain memory is presented and alternatives to the dominant spatial storage and search assumptions are discussed. The spatial metaphor is evaluated, and the role of analogical explanation in psychology is briefly considered. One result of the increasing number of analogical models is the proliferation of hypothetical mental constructs that are only loosely connected to behavioral measures. nt|mis|A number of members of Ebbinghaus Empire at the University of Toronto contributed analogies that are listed in Table 1 and commented on the views expressed here.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry L. Roediger
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyPurdue UniversityWest Lafayette

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