Memory for Items and Memory for Relations in the Procedural/Declarative Memory Framework

Neal J. Cohen, Russell A. Poldrack, Howard Eichenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A major area of research in memory and amnesia concerns the item specificity of implicit memory. In this paper we address several issues about the nature of implicit memory phenomena and about what constitutes an "item", using the procedural/declarative memory theory to guide us. We consider the nature of memory for items and of memory for relations among items, within the context of the procedural/declarative framework, providing us with the foundation necessary to analyse the basis for item-specific implicit memory phenomena. We review recent work from our laboratories demonstrating the fundamentally relational and flexible nature of declarative memory representation, in both humans and animals, and the essential role of the hippocampal system in relational memory processing. We show, further, that the memory representations supporting implicit memory phenomena are inflexible and nonrelational, and are tied to specific processing modules. Finally, we introduce empirical approaches that blur the distinction between skill learning and repetition priming, and show computational modelling results that demonstrate how these two implicit memory phenomena can be mediated by a single incremental learning mechanism, in accord with the claims of the procedural-declarative theory. Taken together, these various analyses of memory for items and memory for relations help to illuminate the nature of the functional deficit in amnesia and the memory systems of the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-178
Number of pages48
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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