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Chapter 5

PSYC 213 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Phantom Limb, Interference Theory, Xerography

Course Code
PSYC 213
Jelena Ristic

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5.1 Schema Theories of Memory
Memory traces are like replicas of previous experiences.
o Like a recording device.
o An event can be replayed back from memory traces an unlimited amount of times.
o After a while, there might be decay in the quality of playback.
o This model only works if it is true that recall of previous experiences is accurate.
Mystic Writing Pad: A model of memory based on a children‟s toy writing tablet that
allows new messages to be written on one level, while fragments of old messages
accumulate on another level.
o It‟s made up of a plastic layer that covers a layer of wax. When you write on the
plastic, it remains on the wax but disappears from the plastic.
o Memories are similar to what remains on the wax after we lift the plastic.
o Thus, memories are after-effects of perception, but they tend to run into one
o After writing on the pad a lot of times, you will see numerous overlapping lines.
o You need to make inferences and reconstruct what you see on the wax and this is
very prone to errors.
Reappearance Hypothesis: The hypothesis that memory is a re-experiencing of the past.
o So memories are not altered.
If memory is schematic, then it relies on fragments to make new constructions.
5.1.1 Flashbulb Memories
Flashbulb Memories: Vivid, detailed memories of significant events.
o This is evidence for the pure trace memory.
o Assassinations of important people are good to study this.
Kennedy‟s Assassination – people tend to report the following:
Their location when they found out about it
What they were doing
Who told them
How they felt (affect)
Aftermath what they did afterwards.
Finding: the more consequential the event was rated, the more often it had
been rehearsed (discussed with others).
Now Print Theory: The theory that a specific process, similar to xerography, lays down
in memory copes of especially significant experiences.
o This can produce flashbulb memories.
o Info is processed in the following sequence:

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o The focus of this theory is on the 3rd stage = producing the memory.
o It‟s like we can save a copy of the experience the same way a photocopier copies
a page.
o Flashbulb memories are an example of highly detailed memory traces.
o This Now Print mechanism may be a primitive for of memory, which would have
been useful when there were no records or events in books/other mediums.
o The evolution of memory would be towards memory schemas and away from
memory traces because of memory aids.
5.1.2 Is There a Flashbulb Memory Mechanism?
Natural Experiment: The Challenger space shuttle explosion
o Participants were given questionnaires 3 days and 9 months after the event.
o The 2 accounts weren‟t always consistent.
o The 9-month account was more general. But it was inconsistent in the same ways
that ordinary memories (not flashbulb) are usually inconsistent.
o This means that some missing info was filled though inferences and guesswork.

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o Conclusion: flashbulb memories can have inaccuracies if info cannot be retrieved
from memory. This would be due to inferences and guesswork.
o McCloskey‟s suggestion: we remember the details of a flashbulb event because
those details are the links between our own histories and the history of the world.
Other similar experiments show that both flashbulb and everyday memories show a
decline in consistency and an increase in inconsistency.
o However, we believe that our flashbulb memories are more accurate than our
ordinary memories (even though they‟re not).
5.2 Are Memory Traces Permanent?
Consolidation (strengthening) theory: The theory that memory traces of an event are not
fully formed immediately after that event, but take some time to become complete.
o This is a classical approach to memory traces.
o This process of consolidation can be disrupted by events that occur afterwards,
and this is called retroactive interference.
It is the decline in the recall of one thing experienced as a result of later
experiencing something else.
o Rest from other events allows for full consolidation of the traces. Mental work at
this time can weaken the memory traces.
o Even if the intervening study material is not related to the original learning, the
new learning draws on a limited pool of resources that may have otherwise been
available to consolidate the original learning.
This is one explanation of why cramming isn‟t as effective even if the
same amount of time is spent learning the material. Info gets all mixed up
and confusing because we haven‟t given our brains enough time to
consolidate (or “digest”) the info. (This might not be true… it‟s not from
the book).
Hippocampus: A site in the brain crucial for the consolidation of memory traces.
o Converts immediate memories into long-term ones.
o Greek = “sea horse” because it looks like one.
They used to think that once consolidation is complete, then the memory is permanent.
o Now they know that when the trace is re-activated, it can change.
Reconsolidation: The hypothetical process whereby a memory trace is revised and
undergoes consolidation again.
Memories are constrictive and always changing!
5.2.1 Bartlett‟s Remembering (a book written by Bartlett)
Method of Repeated Reproduction: One participant is given multiple opportunities to
recall something over time.
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