The aim of our project is to understand forgetting in adults and children, more especially short-term forgetting. Memory is the central cognitive characteristic of human cognition. All of our complex cognitive activities, such as learning, reasoning, and planning, require both the integration and the maintenance of new information and the retrieval of previously acquired knowledge. Within cognitive architecture, one specific structure, working memory, interfaces between these two types of information. Working memory (WM), the system that holds, organizes, and manipulates the contents of our current thoughts, can be seen as the central piece of deliberate cognition. Historically, the concept of WM emerges from the fusion of the attentional system to a short-term memory conceived as a simple store of information. Its limited capacity is a major determinant of our success in complex tasks such as text comprehension, reasoning, and problem solving, and measures of WM capacity have therefore been identified as major determinants of cognitive development in childhood and in old age as well as of individual differences in intellectual abilities. Although the amount of research focused on working memory has increased during the last 30 years, one of its most intriguing mechanisms is still unclear. Indeed, forgetting information stored at short term, that is when a small amount of time separates the acquisition of information and its retrieval for recall, has huge consequences for learning. This phenomenon, so incredibly frequent in our everyday life, is still poorly understood. Within the joint approaches of experimental cognitive psychology and computational science, our aim is to develop a model explaining the underlying mechanisms of forgetting and their development through life.
Symbolic material culture and personal ornaments can be used as effective proxies for tracking mobility and identity in the past: prehistoric Europe was interconnected by a network of long-distance exchange routes of shell “jewellery”. The movements of ornaments can thus reveal contact between communities, elucidating cultural dynamics and patterns of migration. In the absence of written documents, reconstructing the journey of ornaments from their place of origin to their final destination requires secure information on the taxonomy and provenance of the shells. BIJOU will develop a novel interdisciplinary approach for shell ornament identification, advancing the traditional morphological methods and exploiting the biomolecules trapped in shells as taxonomic barcodes. Integrating six state-of-the-art techniques (proteomics and amino acid analyses, macro- and micro-morphology, mineralogy, stable isotopes) and focusing on fifteen key archaeological sites across Europe, BIJOU will build the first publicly available reference collection of shells, identify the materials used to make ornaments and determine their local or exotic provenance. This will provide the long-awaited scientific basis for theories on long-distance exchange in prehistory. Building on the complementary expertise of the Researcher (archaeology and ancient proteins) and the Host Institution (shell biominerals), BIJOU will deliver long-term scientific benefits, including an ad-hoc methodology for the investigation of precious artefacts, and the establishment of an international network of archaeologists. The wealth of information on the modes and tempos of interaction between peoples in the past will be the focus of public dissemination and will inform current debate on the fundamental right of freedom of movement and perceived loss of cultural identity, contributing to building a European society that is truly “inclusive, innovative and reflective” (Europe 2020 strategy).