Project P7

The bi-directional self-memory dynamics: a conceptual framework

Remember last week’s party? P7 investigates how your memory differs from your friend’s due to differences in how you see yourself, your self-model

The overall aim of this project is to provide an adequate description of the self-memory dynamics. The project will build on our results from the first funding period and can be divided into three parts.

First, we aim to develop an integrative account of episodic memory functionality which forms an important constraint on self-memory dynamics. We will show that the interrelation of three commonly distinguished functions of episodic memory (self-, social- and directive function) can be elucidated by conceptualizing the core function of episodic memory as being a flexible situation-guiding functional role. On the one hand, we adopt a situated cognition perspective on memory and investigate memory phenomena with the presupposition of an action-memory-perception coupling. On the other hand, we rely on previous work, the person model theory, which involves self-models, person-models of other people and situational models; this account will be used to explain the flexible changes concerning memory functionality in varying situations.

Second, we aim to further clarify the self-model in memory processes in a way that allows for implementation by means of computational modelling. For this purpose, we will go beyond existing accounts of self-memory dynamics and widen the concept of the self-model with respect to content (and distinguish between situational-, ideal- and ought-self models) and duration (and distinguish between long-term, dispositional and (temporal-)situational self-models). Focusing on the temporal duration first, we have a clear working hypothesis to model the role of the self-model in the group’s computational model of episodic memory (P5 and P2). Furthermore, to improve the theoretical framework for measuring neural correlates of episodic recall, we aim to develop an account of representational formats that allows for adequately characterize different levels of neural correlates (e.g. visceral/sensorimotor, perceptual, conceptual/semantic and narrative) of memory contents. This view should (in the future) be applicable to the self-model.

Third, we will elaborate on the role of social aspects of the self-model in episodic recall with a focus to work out the interrelation between the expectations in social interactions and the self-model (together with P1, P8 and P9). For this we combine the the paradigm of Shared Reality with the aforementioned person-model theory as well as with our account of how the narrative self influences episodic recall from the first funding phase. This allows us to investigate the selection processes that operate within Shared Reality construction. In particular we focus on the role of shared relevance of central aspects in a situation, which we will investigate by elucidating the influence of social rules in the form of shared narratives.

Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Albert Newen

Prof. Dr. Nikolai Axmacher

Former Members

Dr. Roy Dings


  • Situated authenticity in episodic memory
    Dings, R., McCarroll, C. J., & Newen, A.
    Synthese, 202(3)
  • Visual perspective in autobiographical memories of self-incongruent episodes
    Lukaschewski, T. M., Waldhauser, G. T., Dings, R., Heinen, R., Gomes, C. A., Newen, A., & Axmacher, N.
    Memory, 1–14
  • Representational formats of human memory traces
    Heinen, R., Bierbrauer, A., Wolf, O. T., & Axmacher, N.
    Brain Structure and Function
  • 2022

  • The Complex Phenomenology of Episodic Memory: Felt Connections, Multimodal Perspectivity, and Multifaceted Selves
    Dings, R., & McCarroll, C. J.
    Journal of Consciousness Studies, 29(11), 29–55
  • Where was the toaster? A systematic investigation of semantic construction in a new virtual episodic memory paradigm
    Zoellner, C., Klein, N., Cheng, S., Schubotz, R. I., Axmacher, N., & Wolf, O. T.
    Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 174702182211166
  • Selfless Memories
    Millière, R., & Newen, A.
  • What′s special about `not feeling like oneself′? A deflationary account of self(-illness) ambiguity
    Dings, R., & de Bruin, L. C.
    Philosophical Explorations, 1–21
  • Trügerische Erinnerung
    Dings, R., & Newen, A.
    Der Allgemeinarzt
  • 2021

  • Biased memory retrieval in the service of shared reality with an audience: The role of cognitive accessibility
  • The memory trace of a stressful episode
    Bierbrauer, A., Fellner, M. -C., Heinen, R., Wolf, O. T., & Axmacher, N.
    Current Biology
  • Constructing the Past: the Relevance of the Narrative Self in Modulating Episodic Memory
    Dings, R., & Newen, A.
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology
  • 2020

  • Meaningful affordances
    Dings, R.
  • Situated Mental Representations: Why we need mental representations and how we should understand them
    Newen, A., & Vosgerau, G.
    In J. Smortchkova, Dolega, K., & Schlicht, T. (Eds.), Mental Representation (pp. 178–212) Oxford: Oxford University Press

The research unit FOR 2812 "Constructing scenarios of the past: A new framework in episodic memory" is a project funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG). The research unit studies the cognitive and neuronal mechanisms underlying scenario construction in episodic memory. We employ and integrate approaches from Philosophy, Psychology, and Experimental and Computational Neuroscience.


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44801 Bochum, Germany

Tel: +49 (0)234 32 27996
Fax: +49 (0)234 32 14210