The role of context in animal memory

  • William A. RobertsEmail author


Past research has shown that testing memory in the same context in which the memory was encoded leads to improved retention relative to testing memory in a new context. Context-dependent memory is directly related to the extent to which the encoding context can be reproduced. An experiment with pigeons is reported in which the context was a colored house-light that completely enveloped the learning and testing contexts. Under this condition, perfect retention of a visual discrimination that reversed at midsession was shown. Beyond reactivation of memory, new research with pigeons suggests that context provides access to different working and reference memory systems. Finally, experiments are reported that suggest context may selectively access information about features from the different dimensions of place, color, and time.


Context Memory systems Working memory Reference memory Place Color Time 



Support for the preparation of this article was provided by a Discovery Grant to the author from the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada

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