Some memory researchers insist that no significant advancements have been made in their subject because it is not studied in ecologically faithful settings. However, the movement is bankrupt and potentially dangerous to the existing accomplishments (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). Neisser is one of the proponents of ecological validity, criticizing psychology for being unable to answer interesting questions about memory from ordinary people (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). The response is that researchers strive to obtain empirically proven generalizability, and science has other priorities than satisfying the public’s curiosity (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). Neisser also berates memory principles for being obvious and scientists for reaffirming simple facts, although the former is not always true, and the latter facilitates discoveries (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). The psychologist’s ideas could come from misunderstanding generalizability and the impact of real-life situations on it.
The ecological validity approach could work for other sciences, but memory studies do not benefit from it. While discovering new aspects is theoretically possible with everyday methods, a study on repetition conducted by Landauer and Bjork would be impossible in a non-controlled environment (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). Nonetheless, the technique can be successfully recreated by so-called laymen (Banaji & Crowder, 1989). Thus, memory scientists are interested in discovering more principles, but they will do so through experimentations that guarantee generalizability.
Banaji, M. R., & Crowder, R. G. (1989). The bankruptcy of everyday memory. American Psychologist, 44, 1185-1193.