Is episodic memory uniquely human? Evaluating the episodic-like memory research program

Synthese 193 (5):1433-1455 (2016)

Abstract

Recently, a research program has emerged that aims to show that animals have a memory capacity that is similar to the human episodic memory capacity. Researchers within this program argue that nonhuman animals have episodic-like memory of personally experienced past events. In this paper, I specify and evaluate the goals of this research program and the progress it has made in achieving them. I will examine some of the data that the research program has produced, as well as the operational definitions and assumptions that have gone into producing that data, in order to call into question the ultimate value of the episodic-like memory research program. I argue that there is a gap between the claims that the research program makes and the data it uses to support these claims, and that bridging this gap is essential if we want to claim that human episodic memory has a meaningful analog in animals. I end with some suggestions of how to potentially fix these problems

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