Adaptive Memory: Evaluating Alternative Forms of Fitness-Relevant Processing in the Survival Processing Paradigm

Document Type


Publication Date



Memory may have evolved to preserve information processed in terms of its fitness-relevance. Based on the assumption that the human mind comprises different fitness-relevant adaptive mechanisms contributing to survival and reproductive success, we compared alternative fitness-relevant processing scenarios with survival processing. Participants rated words for relevancy to fitness-relevant and control conditions followed by a delay and surprise recall test (Experiment 1a). Participants recalled more words processed for their relevance to a survival situation. We replicated these findings in an online study (Experiment 2) and a study using revised fitness-relevant scenarios (Experiment 3). Across all experiments, we did not find a mnemonic benefit for alternative fitness-relevant processing scenarios, questioning assumptions associated with an evolutionary account of remembering. Based on these results, fitness-relevance seems to be too wide-ranging of a construct to account for the memory findings associated with survival processing. We propose that memory may be hierarchically sensitive to fitness-relevant processing instructions. We encourage future researchers to investigate the underlying mechanisms responsible for survival processing effects and work toward developing a taxonomy of adaptive memory.



This document is currently not available here.