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16 Mar 2012

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I. Attention and Memory
H.M. (Henry Molaison) suffered from severe epilepsy. Originated in
the temporal lobes > surgery, lost the ability to form new long
term memory-world stopped Sept 1953
“Every day is alone in itself”
Memory: the nervous system’s capacity to acquire and retain
useable skills and knowledge, allowing organisms to benefit from
experience, often incomplete biased, distorted
A. How Does Attention Determine What is Remembered
Look, listen = commands that direct attention
attention is limited, when divided among too
many tasks, performance suffers
1. Visual Attention Is Selective and Serial
Anne Treisman: we automatically identify
“primitive” features, such as color, shape,
orientation, and movement, within an
Tresiman has proposed that separate systems
analyze objects’ different visual features
Parallel processing: these systems all process
information at the same time, and we can
attend selectively to only feature by effectively
blocking the further processing of the others;
visual search tasks (feature search
tasks)participants look at a display of different
objects on a computer screen, searching for the
ones, called targets, that differ from the others
in only one feature, other objects in the display
= distractions
Color, motion, orientation, and size features that
pop out despite # of distracters
Searching for two features is serial (need to look
at stimuli one at a time), and effortful (takes
longer and requires more attention)
Conjunction task: ex-trying to find all the red X’s
in a display of differently colored Xs and Ys,
stimulus looking for is made up of two different
2. Auditory Attention Allows Selective Listening
Hard to perform two tasks the same time, esp if
uses same mechanisms
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E.C. Cherry-(selective listening) cocktail party
phenomenon: focus on a single conversation in
the midst of a chaotic cocktail party, yet a
particular stimulus can capture your attention
Proximity and loudness influence what you will
attend to, your selective attention can also
determine which conversation you hear
Personally relevant information often gets
through attention filter
3. Selective Attention Can Operate At Multiple Stages of
Donald Broadbent: the filter theory-people have
a limited capacity for sensory information and
thus screen incoming information ,letting in only
the most important information and closes for
irrelevant information
Some stimuli demands attention, ex: cramps,
higher pitched sounds like crying baby
Decisions about what to attend are made early
in the perceptual process, but studies also
reveal that unattended information is processed
to some extent
Change blindness: often “blind” to large
changes in our environments because we
cannot attend to everything in the vast array of
visual information available (ex: giving
directions to stranger, then momentarily
blocked, 50% of participants didn’t notice if
talking to different person if same race and sex)
Large discrepancy between what people
believe they see and what they actually see,
change blindness shows how attention
influences memory
B. What Are the Basic Stages of Memory
Information processing model: Memory’s multiple processes
can be thought of as operating over time in three distinct
phases (1) encoding phase: occurs at the same time as
learning, as info is acquired. Encoded or changed into a
neural code that the brain can use (on acquisition) (2) the
storage phrase, which can last a fraction of a second or as
long as a lifetime-at least three storage systems (3)
Modal memory model: Sensory memory, short term/working
memory and long term memory proposed by Richard
Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin
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1. Sensory Memory is Brief
Sensory Memory: temporary memory system,
lasting only a fraction of a second and closely
tied to the sensory system-often unaware that
it’s operating
Sensory systems transduce or change that
information into neural impulses and everything
we remember is the result of neurons firing n
the brain
George Sperling provided initial empirical
support for sensory memory: three rows of
letters flashed on a screen for 1/20 of a second-
part. Asked to recall all the letters
Concludes that visual memory only persists for
½ of second after which the sensory memory
trace faded progressively until it was no longer
See the world continuously rather than in jerky
bits b/c of visual memory, keeps info just long
enough for you to connect one image with the
2. Working Memory is Active
Information attended to is passed from sensory
stores to STM: a limited capacity memory
system that holds information in awareness for
a brief period
This short term system often referred to as
working memory (WM) to indicate that it is a
memory (storage) system that combines
information from difference sources and can
work on the information we have in memory
Also called immediate memory
Info remains in the working memory for about
20-30s then disappears unless you actively
prevent that from happening by thinking about
or rehearsing the information
a) Memory Span and Chunking
Memory span: amount of
information WM can hold, George
Miller estimates 7
Chunking: organizing information
into meaningful units to make it
easier to remember
b) Working Memory’s Four Parts
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