Association is the only concept in cognition that is as general, simple, and useful as classic theories in physics. Aristotle claimed that sensory-based events were the elementary units of memory. Such memories then became linked together through learning. The process of linkage—association—led to a powerful, creative computational structure. The ability to form networks of associations was unique to humans. William James extended Aristotle’s ideas by proposing a cognitive system that moved well beyond rote linkage in power and flexibility. Some of the mechanics of associative memory can be explained by synaptic change mechanisms such as the correlational Hebb synapse. Also discussed are examples of the problems caused by a “too good” memory along with use of associative memory aids like mnemonics.
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