PSY100H1 Study Guide - Dennis Amiss, Pus, Ellen Langer
Topic 6: Memory and Cognition
-Everything in the brain is the same, but these psychological processes are also all similar in many ways,
because fundamentally, each is a set of neural processes organized in interconnected networks of
neurons, that have fired together many times in the past
Using your memory more effectively is effectively what you do when you learn
Can understanding memory help us learn more effectively?
• Effective Encoding and Rehearsal
• Mnemonics & multiple Retrieval Cues
• Overlearning & Distributed Practice
Craik & Lockhart
-LTM storage is based on MEANING…. we do not file our memories under some sort of code system, like
old library card stacks. Instead, we store memories based on meaningful associations (and non-
– The more ways in which you think about the material, the deeper your processing will be and
the more easily you will remember the material later.
– The levels-of-processing principle
– Ways to think about the material would include asking questions such as:
– Can I think of similar concepts in another subject area?
– How do these apply to me?
– What experiences do I have that are related to this information?
-Memories should not be viewed separate connections; it is an overlap of neural connections, stored
based on meaning, which means to make more connections
The Levels-of-Processing Principle
• The levels-of-processing principle states that the ease with which we can retrieve a memory
depends on the number and types of associations that we form with that memory
– Superficial processing – simply repeating the material that you are trying to memorize.
– Deeper processing – the processing of meaning rather than simply the physical or
sensory features of a stimulus. Also notes the associations between the items or parts
of the material.
– Note: deeper levels of processing = greater amounts of neural activity
-i.e. learning a new name, use it right away, just make 2 or 3 connections, then it will be cemented to
you, thus you will have multiple cues, brain works through making multiple connections
Comparing Encoding strategies: The more meaning, the better
-Elaborate encoding – better retention
Rehearsal of Encoded Memories
• Maintenance Rehearsal
– Rote repetition of material in order to maintain its availability in memory.
• Elaborative Rehearsal
– Association of new information with already stored knowledge and analysis of the new
information to make it memorable.
Over learning and distributed practice
-Even once you’ve learned something, keep learning it...you’ll remember it better
-Cramming has a cost...best study practice is to study bits at a time, spread out over multiple sessions
Best learning strategy?
• Multiple sessions, distributed over time, with as many exposures to the material as possible +
encoding the material deeply; not only definitions, but multiple facets, interconnections to
other concepts, stories, personal relevance, etc.etc. + organize & summarize material; draw
mind-webs or hierarchies or whatever works for you forces you to deeply process material
-Think about in as many angles as you can, building neuron nets, how many neurotransmitters are
dumped on the synapses, more times they are activated, the more stronger they become
-Studying with someone, then you are actively processing info
Best learning strategy?
• Make material memorable, personally relevant, vivid anecdotes or examples
• Use mnemonics when appropriate; e.g., acronyms give retrieval cues
-Try and simplify info
• Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
• Eat All Delicious Guppies Before Eels
• Advertisements use melody, rhyme, etc., to make their products memorable. (Lestoil)
• We even encode ‘cultural wisdom’ in mnemonics through catchy sayings (an apple a day...)
-Doesn’t give them all the info, but help them think a certain way, they can learn to connect that info
Retrieval Cues Provide Access to Long-Term Storage
• Retrieval cues help access information, which is why recognition is easier than recall
• The “encoding specificity principle” states any stimulus encoded with an experience can become
• E.g., Smith et al., 1978: 80 words: same room = 49; diff = 35
• The room is part of your neural activation
• Anything that helps people access information from long-term memory is known as a retrieval
• Retrieval cues help us sort through the vast amount of data stored in LTM to identify the right
information. The power of retrieval cues explains why it is easier to recognize than to recall
information. For example, What is the capital of Vermont?
• You probably had to spend a moment or two thinking about this, even if you could retrieve the
correct answer. Now consider the question, Is the capital of Vermont Concord, Montpelier, or
Pierre? Most people find it easier now to remember that Montpelier is Vermont’s capital. Seeing
the word helps you to retrieve specific information that allows you to answer the question.
• ENCODING SPECIFICITY Almost anything can be a retrieval cue, from the smell of turkey, to a
favorite song from high school, to walking into a familiar building. Encountering these sorts of
stimuli often triggers unintended memories. According to psychologist Endel Tulving’s encoding
specificity principle, any stimulus that is encoded along with an experience can later trigger the
memory of the experience. In an interesting study with provocative findings, Steven Smith and
his colleagues had students study 80 words in one of two different rooms. The rooms differed in
a number of ways, including size, location, and scent in the room. The studentswere then tested
for recall either in the room in which they studied or the other room. When the study and test
sessions were held in the same room, students recalled about 49 words correctly.
However,when tested in the room in which they did not study, students recalled only 35 words
correctly (Smith, Glenberg, & Bjork, 1978).
• Such enhancement of memory when the recall situation is similar to the encoding situation is
known as context-dependent memory.
• Context-dependent memory can be based on such things as odors, background music, and
physical location. The most dramatic demonstration showed that scuba divers who learned
information underwater later tested better underwater than on land (Godden & Baddeley,
1975; see Figure 7.9).
• STATE-DEPENDENT MEMORY Just as physical context can affect memory, so can internal cues,
such as mood states or even inebriation.
• Enhancement of memory when there is a match between internal states during encoding and
recall is known as state-dependent memory. Some of the research on this topic was inspired by
the observation that alcoholics often misplaced important objects, such as paychecks, because
they stored them in a safe place while they were drinking but could not remember where once
they were sober. The next time they were drinking, however, they were able to remember
where they had hidden the object. The psychological scientist Eric Eich and colleagues (1975)
conducted a study of state-dependent memory using marijuana. Participants studied a test list
either sober or high. Eich and colleagues found that memory was best when participants were
tested in the same state in which they had studied. Note, however, that students recalled the
information best when they were sober on both occasions. In a study that used alcohol, the
worst performance was for students who studied when intoxicated and took the test sober.
They did worse than students who studied sober and took the test intoxicated. Students who
studied intoxicated and took the test intoxicated did much worse than students who were sober
at both study and test (Goodwin, Powell, Bremer, Hoine, & Stern, 1969). State-dependent
memory works because internal state is an additional retrieval cue that can facilitate the
recovery of information from long-term memory.
Why is more easier to remember than less?
-Think neural nets...number of excitatory signals...enhanced communication with repeated activation
-Less info means more memories lay dormant
-a central part of consciousness
-memory is the capacity to retain and retrieve info
-memory provides us with our sense of identity
• Priming effects happen because we organize our memories in these networks of associations.
This helps us organize our thinking, optimizes the efficiency with which we can retrieve
information, and therefore, enables the smooth, adaptive functioning of our brains.
• But as you know, this means that we are inherently biased processors, with our memories,
perceptions, etc., being guided by those “nodes” that have recently been activated in our
-Organized this way because it makes our thinking more efficient
-However, it opens us up to some biases
Priming Effects Continued