Mythohistory in Light of How Memory Works


  • Elizabeth Wayland Barber UCLA
  • Paul T. Barber Independent scholar and author



Myth, Oral tradition, memory techniques, observation vs. explanation, analogical reasoning


“Myths” did not start as quaint stories but as compellingly memorable devices to record events and observations in nonliterate societies. By understanding how people encoded information so as to maximize their brains’ abilities to remember, we can begin to extract at least some historical information from these inherited tales. But not all oral tradition is directly useful to historians because not all the information thus recorded is of events, and the clarity of the events diminishes radically as the lifestyle and especially the location of the storytellers change.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Wayland Barber, UCLA

Elizabeth Wayland Barber was Professor of Linguistics and Archeology (now Emerita), Occidental College, Los Angeles, and is a research associate at Cotsen Institute of Archeology, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.

Paul T. Barber, Independent scholar and author

Paul T. Barber PhD is a private writer and researcher. Previously he was a researcher at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


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How to Cite

Barber, E. W. ., & Barber, P. T. . (2022). Mythohistory in Light of How Memory Works. Journal of Cognitive Historiography, 6(1-2), 236–254.