Already praised as “a fascinating collection of findings and ideas,” and “[both] practically important [and] of great theoretical significance,” Life-Span Maintenance of Knowledge describes how well we maintain the knowledge we acquire throughout life.
“Memory is where we live,” says Harry Bahrick of OWU’s Department of Psychology. “If we strip away our memories, we lose everything.” The maintenance of knowledge has interested him for decades. “You have to distinguish between episodic and semantic content,” he continues. “Episodic, or event memory, happens in time and place. Semantic memory, on the other hand, is information gained over years. If I ask you when you learned that two plus two equals four, you wouldn’t be able to tell me. It’s something you’ve always known. Studying semantic memory, therefore, takes a long time to study and hundreds of subjects.”
“Ohio Wesleyan has been very supportive of our research over many years,” Department of Psychology colleague, Lynda Hall, says. “146 former student research assistants are acknowledged in the book. Of those, 60 have gone on to earn doctoral degrees, 30 have master’s degrees, and four have J.D.s. We’re aware of nine more who are currently pursuing graduate or professional degrees. We’re so proud of all of them and the contributions they’re making.”
Additionally, Hall says, “our alumni have been willing to be research subjects. For example, suppose a student learned Spanish at Ohio Wesleyan, and 50 years later we want to know how much of that content he or she can access today. We’ve asked alumni to participate in those kinds of studies, and they have been willing to do so. This book is very much an Ohio Wesleyan project.”
“Our major contribution,” Bahrick continues, “is in developing the methodology to study maintenance of knowledge. We’ve been doing it here for about fifty years—and doing it better and better.”
Life-Span Maintenance of Knowledge is not a textbook. “That’s actually good,” Bahrick says. “Although there won’t be the kind of massive initial sales textbooks have, the book will not be outdated quickly. There’s no other place people can find this information. We expect this book to sell steadily for many years. This is fundamental work.”