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Genetic memory (psychology)

In psychology, genetic memory is a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time.[1] It is based on the idea that common experiences of a species become incorporated into its genetic code, not by a Lamarckian process that encodes specific memories but by a much vaguer tendency to encode a readiness to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli. It is invoked to explain the racial memory postulated by Carl Jung, and differentiated from cultural memory, which is the retention of habits, customs, myths, and artifacts of social groups.[2] The latter postdates genetic memory in the evolution of the human species, only coming into being with the development of language, and thus the possibility of the transmission of experience.[3] Racial memory is a concept in Jungian psychology. Racial memories are posited memories, feelings and ideas inherited from our ancestors as part of a "collective unconscious".[4]


[edit] Genetic memory and language

Language, in the modern view, is considered to be only a partial product of genetic memory. The fact that humans can have languages is a property of the nervous system that is present at birth, and thus phylogenetic in character. However, perception of the particular set of phonemes specific to a native language only develops during ontogeny. There is no genetic predisposition towards the phonemic makeup of any single language. Children in a particular country are not genetically predisposed to speak the languages of that country, adding further weight to the assertion that genetic memory is not Lamarckian.[1]

[edit] Historical views

In contrast to the modern view, in the 19th century, biologists considered genetic memory to be a fusion of memory and heredity, and held it to be a Lamarckian mechanism. Ribot in 1881, for example, held that psychological and genetic memory were based upon a common mechanism, and that the former only differed from the latter in that it interacted with consciousness.[5] Hering and Semon developed general theories of memory, the latter inventing the idea of the engram and concomitant processes of engraphy and ecphory. Semon divided memory into genetic memory and central nervous memory.[6]

This 19th-century view is not wholly dead, albeit that it stands in stark contrast to the ideas of neo-Darwinism. Stuart A. Newman and Gerd B. Müller have contributed to the idea in the 21st century.[7]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Rodolfo R. Llinas (2001). I of the Vortex: From Neurons to Self. MIT Press. pp. 190'191. ISBN 0262621630. 
  2. ^ Allan Paivio (2006). Mind And Its Evolution: A Dual Coding Theoretical Approach. Routledge. pp. 240. ISBN 0805852603. 
  3. ^ Mihai Nadin (1997). The Civilization of Illiteracy. Dresden University Press. pp. 103'104. ISBN 3931828387. 
  4. ^ Reber, A.S & Reber, E. Penguin Dictionary of Psychology, 3rd ed. Penguin ISBN 0-14-051451.
  5. ^ Louis D. Matzel (2002). "Learning Mutants". in Harold E. Pashler. Steven's Handbook of Experimental Psychology. John Wiley and Sons. p. 201. ISBN 0471650161. 
  6. ^ Timothy L. Strickler (1978). Functional Osteology and Myology of the Shoulder in the Chiroptera. Karger Publishers. pp. 325. ISBN 3805526458. 
  7. ^ Brian Keith Hall, Roy Douglas Pearson, and Gerd B. Müller (2003). Environment, Development, and Evolution: Toward a Synthesis. MIT Press. pp. 17. ISBN 0262083191. 

[edit] Further reading

  • Alan Bullock and Oliver Stallybrass (1977). "Genetic memory". The Harper Dictionary of Modern Thought. Harper & Row. pp. 258. 
  • Raymond Joseph Corsini (1999). "Genetic memory". The Dictionary of Psychology. Psychology Press. pp. 410. ISBN 158391028X.  ' Note that the definition talks of "information based upon" learning and experience, rather than about learning and experience themselves.Z

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