PSYC 2530: Instance theory and Minerva II

Matthew J. C. Crump

Last compiled 11/08/23


  1. A poetic process theory
  2. Principles of instance theory
  3. Implementing the principles computationally
  4. Examining the model

Jamieson et al. (2022)

The reading for this module is:

Jamieson, R. K., Johns, B. T., Vokey, J. R., & Jones, M. N. (2022). Instance theory as a domain-general framework for cognitive psychology. Nature Reviews Psychology.

Intuition pump

Intuition pumps allow thinkers to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem. - Wikipedia, Dennett

  • Instance theory is a productive intuition pump for cognition
  • Need ways to develop and formalize the intuitions

How does some cognitive ability work?

Domain general explanations

  • emergence from general-purpose perception, attention, learning, and memory processes
  • Externally informed through experience with a structured environment

Special system explanations

  • special module with unique processing algorithms
  • Internally pre-structured to sense and use signals

What is instance theory?

  1. A collection of domain-general processing assumptions about how memory functions
  2. Can be formalized computationally
  3. Provides a theoretical basis to evaluate potential functional abilities (and limitations) of episodic memory systems
  4. Can be explanatory and exploratory

Mnemic Psychology

Historical Sidenote

  • Modern instance theory is broadly consistent with Richard Semon’s theory of memory developed in Mnemic Psychology (1923)
  • Semon was a German theorist whose ideas were largely forgotten until they were translated to English (mid-century)
  • See Schacter, D. L., Eich, J. E., & Tulving, E. (1978). Richard Semon’s theory of memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 17(6), 721-743.
  • Semon’s ideas inspired Hintzman’s MINERVA 2

Poetic Psychology


Physical Resonance

Memory as experiential resonance

Basic instance theory assumptions

  1. People encode the details of individual experiences
  2. Retrieval is similarity driven.
  • the pattern in the present moment retrieves experiences with similar patterns from the past

Instance theory primers

  • A collection of related process theories of memory and cognition
  • Different researchers have different versions (broadly similar)
  • Instance theories range in specificity from verbal theories to computational models

Example verbal instance theories

  • Jacoby, L. L., & Brooks, L. R. (1984). Nonanalytic cognition: Memory, perception, and concept learning. The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 18, 1–47.

  • Kolers, P. A., & Roediger, H. L. (1984). Procedures of mind. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23(4), 425–449.

Big picture idea

  1. Lots of cognitive abilities may be understood in terms of processes involved in cued-recall.

Minerva 2

MINERVA 2 is a global-matching model of memory (Hintzman, 1984,86,88) that can be formally evaluated as a computer algorithm

  • applied across numerous domains

  • Frequency judgments (Hintzman, 1988)

  • False Memory (Arndt, 1998)

  • Selective memory deficits (Curtis & Jamieson, 2019)

  • Age-related memory decline (DRYAD, Benjamin, 2012)

  • Prototype abstraction (Hintzman, 1986)

Minerva 2 continued

  • Artificial Grammar Learning (Jamieson & Mewhort, 2009)
  • Implicit Sequence Learning (Jamieson & Mewhort, 2009b)
  • Judgments of Likelihoods (Dougherty, 1999)
  • Eyewitness identification (Clark, 2003)
  • lexical access (Goldinger, 1998)
  • Associative Learning (MINERVA-AL, Jamieson et al., 2010)
  • Semantic memory (ITS, Jamieson et al, 2018)

Hintzman (1986)

MINERVA in Excel

Let’s look at how the model works

  • Feature vectors
  • Encoding
  • Retrieval
  • Recognition judgments
  • Frequency judgments
  • Schema abstraction