[Neuroscience and collective memory: memory schemas linking brain, societies and cultures]

Biol Aujourdhui. 2015;209(3):273-86. doi: 10.1051/jbio/2015025. Epub 2016 Jan 28.
[Article in French]


During the last two decades, the effect of intersubjective relationships on cognition has been an emerging topic in cognitive neurosciences leading through a so-called "social turn" to the formation of new domains integrating society and cultures to this research area. Such inquiry has been recently extended to collective memory studies. Collective memory refers to shared representations that are constitutive of the identity of a group and distributed among all its members connected by a common history. After briefly describing those evolutions in the study of human brain and behaviors, we review recent researches that have brought together cognitive psychology, neuroscience and social sciences into collective memory studies. Using the reemerging concept of memory schema, we propose a theoretical framework allowing to account for collective memories formation with a specific focus on the encoding process of historical events. We suggest that (1) if the concept of schema has been mainly used to describe rather passive framework of knowledge, such structure may also be implied in more active fashions in the understanding of significant collective events. And, (2) if some schema researches have restricted themselves to the individual level of inquiry, we describe a strong coherence between memory and cultural frameworks. Integrating the neural basis and properties of memory schema to collective memory studies may pave the way toward a better understanding of the reciprocal interaction between individual memories and cultural resources such as media or education.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Culture*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurosciences* / history
  • Neurosciences* / trends
  • Social Behavior* / history
  • Social Change
  • Sociological Factors