Human mnesic performance in a survival scenario: the application of the adaptive memory concept in ethnobiology


  • Risoneide Henriques da Silva Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Botânica
  • Patrícia Muniz de Medeiros
  • Washington Soares Ferreira Júnior
  • Ulysses Paulino Albuquerque



Evolutionary Psychology, Social-ecological Systems, Biocultural Evolution


Evolutionary psychologists suggest that the human brain has evolved to retain information of greater adaptive value in a differentiated manner, being this information relevant for survival. These premises are part of a research field defined as adaptive memory. This article reviews the main studies related to adaptive memory, indicating its recent findings, as well as discussing the possible applications of the theme to studies in evolutionary ethnobiology.

Author Biography

Risoneide Henriques da Silva, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Botânica

Departamento de Biologia


Aslan A, Bauml KHT. (2012). Retrieval-induced forgetting in old and very old age. Psychology and Aging 27:1027-1032. DOI:

Barret HC, Kurzban R. (2006). Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. Psychological Review 113: 628-647. DOI:

Barrett HC, Broesch J. (2012) Prepared social learning about dangerous animals in children. Evolution and Human Behavior 33:499–508. DOI:

Bolhuis JJ, Brown GR, Richardson RC, Laland KN. (2011) Darwin in Mind: New Opportunities for Evolutionary Psychology. PLoS Biology 9:1-8. DOI:

Casagrande DG. (2000) Human taste and cognition in Tzeltal Maya medicinal plant use. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 4:57–69. DOI:

Ferreira Júnior WS, Albuquerque UP. (2015) Consensus Within Diversity”: An Evolutionary Perspective on Local Medical Systems. Biological Theory 10: 363-368. doi:10.1007/s13752-015-0215-1 DOI:

Medeiros PM, Ladio AL, Albuquerque UP. (2015) Local Criteria for Medicinal Plant Selection. In Albuquerque UP, Medeiros PM, Casas A. (orgs.) Evolutionary ethnobiology. New York, Springer. DOI:

Moerman, DE., Jonas, WB (2002). "Deconstructing the placebo effect and finding the meaning response." Annals of Internal medicine 136.6: 471-476. DOI:

Nairne JS, Thompson SR, Pandeirada JNS. (2007) Adaptive Memory: Survival Processing Enhances Retention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 33:263–273. DOI:

Nairne JS, Pandeirada JNS, Thompson SR. (2008) Adaptive Memory: The Comparative Value of Survival Processing. Psychological Science 19:176-180. DOI:

Nairne JS, Pandeirada JNS. (2008) Adaptive memory: Is survival processing special? Journal of Memory and Language 59:377-385. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2008.06.001 DOI:

Nairne JS. (2010) Adaptive Memory: Evolutionary constraints on remembering. Psychology of learning and motivation 53:1-32. DOI:

Nairne JS, Vanarsdall JE, Pandeirada JNS. (2012) Adaptive Memory: Enhanced Location Memory After Survival Processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology 38: 495–501. DOI:

Palmore CC, Garcia AD, Bacon LP, Johnson CA, Kelemen WL. (2012) Congruity influences memory and judgments of learning during survival processing. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 19:119–125. DOI:

Sandry J, Trafimow D, Marks M J, Rice S. (2013) Adaptive Memory: Evaluating alternative forms of fitness-relevant processing in the survival processing paradigm. PLoS ONE 8(4): e60868.

doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060868. DOI:

Tse CS, Altarriba, J (2010) Does survival processing enhance implicit memory? Memory Cognit 38: 1110–1121. DOI:

Tooby J,Cosmides L. (2005) Conceptual foundations of evolutionary psychology. In Buss D (Ed.) The handbook of evolutionary psychology. NJ: Wiley, Hoboken, pp. 5–67. DOI:

Yang L, Lau KPL, Truong L. (2014) The Survival Effect in Memory: Does It Hold into Old Age and Non-Ancestral Scenarios? PLoS ONE 9(5): e95792. DOI:




How to Cite

da Silva, R. H., Muniz de Medeiros, P., Soares Ferreira Júnior, W., & Paulino Albuquerque, U. (2017). Human mnesic performance in a survival scenario: the application of the adaptive memory concept in ethnobiology. Ethnobiology and Conservation, 6.



Short Review

Most read articles by the same author(s)