We have learned much about the neurobiology of learning and memory in the past 100 years. We have also learned much about how we should, and should not, investigate these complex processes. However, with the rapid recent growth in the field and the influx of investigators not familiar with this past, these crucial lessons too often fail to guide the research of today. Here we highlight some major lessons gleaned from this wealth of experience. These include the need to carefully attend to the learning/performance distinction, to rely equally on synthetic as well as reductionistic thinking, and to avoid the seduction of simplicity. Examples in which the lessons of history are, and are not, educating current research are also given.