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Human Associative Memory Paper

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Associationism is one of the oldest and most commonly held theories of thought. It explains that memory depends on the formation of linkages between elements such as events, sensations or ideas, and by remembering or experiencing one member of the elements will trigger a memory or anticipation of the other. As J.R. Anderson and G.H. Bower wrote in the book “Human Associative Memory”:

“Associationism can be thought of as an attempt to reconstruct the human mind from sensory experience with minimal theoretical assumptions.”

Even though the origins of associationism can be found in Plato, it was Aristotle who elaborated the idea and asserted four laws of association. He also described association as “common sense” that different aspects of
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Hebb’s Principle: “ neurons that fire together, wire together,” describes that every experience, idea, feeling and physical sensation generates thousands of neurons. When the same experience is felt over and over again, the brain learns to produce the same neurons each time. These neurons will wire together and form a neural network. Once the neural network is formed, it helps us to absorb, store and recall information.

Moreover, an established neural network could lead to associative learning. Associative learning is the process by which someone develops an association between two stimuli, or behaviour and a stimulus. For example, when a student has an unpleasant experience in school such as constantly bullied by older students, it can result in negativity become embedded in the student’s neural networks. The student has associated school with feelings of fear. Therefore, the student will respond to school based on that negativity and more likely to skip school.

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Some examples of dual process theory have proven that Hebb and Aristotle were right. Dual process theory is based on the idea that the mind is operating with two parallel systems. System 1 is considered as an unconscious and implicit (automatic) system while System 2 is a conscious and explicit (controlled) system. Moreover, System 1 functions automatically without any intended control. In contrast, System 2 is driven by mental activity and is correlated with choice and
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