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Distributed Memory and the Representation of General and Specific Information

By James L. McClelland and David E. Rumelhart


We describe a distributed model of information processing and memory and apply it to the representation of general and specific information. The model consists of a large number of simple processing elements which send excitatory and inhibitory signals to each other via modifiable connections. Information processing is thought of as the process whereby patterns of activation are formed over the units in the model through their excitatory and inhibitory interactions. The memory trace of a processing event is the change or increment to the strengths of the interconnections that results from the processing event. The traces of separate eVf'.nts are superimposed on each other in the values of the connection strengths that result from the entire set of traces stored in the memory. The model is applied to a number of findings related to the question of whether we store abstract representations or an enumeration of specific experiences in memory. The model simulates the results of a number of important experiments which have been takf'.n as evidence for the enumeration of specific experiences. At the same time. it shows how the functional equivalent of abstract representations-prototypes

Year: 1985
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