Mathematical models of human memory

Human memory is a multi-staged phenomenon of extreme complexity, which results in highly unpredictable behavior in real-life situations. Psychologists developed classical paradigms for studying memory in the lab, which produce easily quantifiable measures of performance at the cost of using artificial content, such as lists of randomly assembled words. I will introduce a set of simple mathematical models describing how information is maintained and recalled in these experiments. Surprisingly, they provide a very good description of experimental data obtained with internet-based memory experiments on large number of human subjects. Moreover, more detailed mathematical analysis of the models leads to some interesting ideas for future experiments with potentially very surprising results.



C.V. Starr Professor, School of Natural Sciences