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Three psychological levels at which an object may be processed have been characterized by Norman (2004) in terms of the object's appearance, its usability, and its capacity to elicit memories. A series of experiments was carried out to investigate participants' choices among valued objects recalled in accordance with these three criteria. It was found consistently that objects selected for their capacity to elicit memories--here termed mnemoactive objects--were valued significantly more than the other objects. Even the financial or social importance of an object was outweighed by the importance of its memory link; possible implications for the economic analysis of subjective well-being are briefly discussed. The same pattern of mnemoactive dominance was found across age and gender. Appropriate choice of objects may allow an individual to exert a degree of indirect voluntary control over the activation of involuntary autobiographical memories, providing a new perspective on Proust's approach to memory.


Journal article


Mem Cognit

Publication Date





1587 - 1597


Adult, Attitude, Autobiography as Topic, Choice Behavior, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Mental Recall