Chapter 6: Memory Systems
Tulving and the Theory of Memory Systems
o Encoding Specificity
Principle of encoding specificity (regulates memory): the way that an item is retrieved
from memory depends on the way that it was stored in memory.
A cue is more likely to lead to the recall of an item if the cue was initially
encoded along with that item.
Ex: if the word bridge is encoded as an engineering structure, then the cue "a
card game" will not be as likely to lead to recall of bridge.
Tulving and Thomson (1973):
Participants learned a list of 24 pairs of words. The pairs were only weakly
associated, and one of the words was printed in lower case, other in upper.
First word of each pair is the weak cue word. The second word is the target
Then they were given a task where they were given strong cue words. They
wrote a list of words that came to mind when they were given these cues.
Out of the list they generated, they should have recognised about 18 target
words, but they only recognised 4. this means that the partcipants were able to
generate target words without them being able to recognise them as being
Finally they were given the 24 weak cue words and asked to recall the target
words. Participants were able to recall about 15 of target words.
Participants were generating words in response to the strong cues that
were the same as the words that they had learned in response to the
weak cues. However, they were often unable to recognise the words they
Recognition failure of recallable words: Conditions can be created where
info about a word event is available in memory in a form sufficient for the
production of an appropriate response, yet a literal copy of the word is
Nature of encoding at input will influence the memory trace for the item.
In the above expts, participants learned the target words in the context of the weak
cues. So strong cues weren't part of encoding, and yielded target words only because
of general knowledge.
o Episodic and Semantic Memory
Episodic memory:(autobiographical event) the memory system concerned with
personally experienced events.
Ex: I remember seeing a flash of light a short while ago, followed by a sound a
few seconds later.
Semantic memory:(general knowledge) the memory system concerned with
knowledge of words, concepts, and their relationships.
Ex: I remember that the chemical formula for table salt is NaCl.
o Neuropsychological Evidence for the Independence of Episodic and Semantic Memory
Klein, Loftus, Kihlstrom (1996): study concerning self-knowledge of an amnesic patient
WJ suffered retrograde amnesia: the inability to recall events prior to the injury.
Therefore her episodic memory was impaired.
Issue: is episodic memory necessary in order to have a sense of personal
Semantic personal knowledge might include the facts that the person is kind,
outgoing or lazy.
Episodic personal knowledge, by contrast, consists of memories of specific
events involving the self and could include memories of instances in which one
was kind, outgoing or lazy.
If semantic and episodic personal memory were truly independent of one
another, then damage to one system should not affect the other.
Retrograde amnesia is usually temporary and patient recovers within a few
Right after her accident, WJ had good general knowledge and could remember
which classes she was enrolled with, but she couldn’t remember going to any.
She knew her family and friends but couldn’t remember any personal
experiences with them.
WJ was given 24 picturable words and she had to recall a personal event in
relation to the word and the date of when it occurred.
Control participants had a recency bias. WJ had a primary bias.
Recency bias vs primary bias: a tendency to recall experiences from
the recent past compared to a tendency to recall experiences form
the relatively distant past.
Hoever after WJ recovered, her pattern of episodic memory was similar to
that of controls.
WJ was asked to rate herself in terms of 80 personality traits in order to test her
Strong agreement between her rating of herself right after the accident,
and after she recovered. The consistency of her ratings was similar to that
of control participants.
She also rated herself as if she were in high school which turned out to be
different from her current self-rating, indicating she was aware that she
had changed while at college.
Results are consistent with the hypothesis that episodic and semantic memory
are represented seperately, and one can have access to semantic knowledge
without having access to episodic memory.
Tulving (1985,2002): person(NN/KC) who suffered multiple cortical and subcortical
lesions and never recovered his episodic memory. But his other intellectual skills
He is able to outline a standard restaurant script - evidence that semantic
memory is still functioning.
He cant recall individual events from his past, nor can he imagine what he might
do in the future.
When asked to think about the future, NN/KC had a blank state of mind.
The Development of the Theory of Memory Systems
o In addition to episodic and semantic memory, it has been suggested that there may be as
many as 5 memory systems: episodic memory, semantic memory, procedural memory,
perceptual representation system, and working memory.
o Procedural Memory
Procedural memory: underlies skilled performances: the memory system concerned
with knowing how to do things.
Tacit knowledge: knowing how to do something without being able to say exactly
what it is that you know (procedural)
Ex: knowledge of how to ride a bike.
Explicit knowledge: knowing that something is the case.
Ex: the physics behind bike-riding.
When we are able to describe what we know, we rely on semantic memory which
contains our explicit knowledge about things.
Procedural memory is what we actually use to ride the bike.
Episodic memory would contain particularly experiences of riding bikes.
Episodic memory is seen as the most recent and procedural memory as the oldest.
Episodic Memory of Autonoetic Consciousness
o Anoetic (non-knowing), noetic(knowing), and autonoetic: three levels of consciousness
corresponding to procedural, semantic, and episodic memory systems.
o Procedural memory involves only responding to here and now (immediate surroundings)
o Crucial aspects of episodic memory: remembering your past and being able to project
oneself into the future. (allows for setting goals and planning actions)
o Frontal and prefrontal lobe damage can diminish autonoetic consciousness.
Prefrontal leucotomy: a surgical procedure whereby the connections between the
prefrontal lobes and other parts of the brain are severed.
Goal: calm patients who ruminated excessively about themselves and their
Effects: listlessness and apathy.
o Tulving: autonoetic consciousness (autonoesis) is uniquely human and played a crucial role
in the evolution of human culture and civilization.
o Chronesthesia: our subjective sense of time: being aware of our own and our progeny's
continued existence in time.
o Given that capacity, people can contemplate changing the environment to suit them better,
rather than simply adapting to it.
o Activities (bad) that chronesthesia makes possible:
Exploitation of resources such as oil in anticipation of future benefits such as ease of
transportation. It may have maladaptive consequences for us in the long run due to
o Human ability to anticipate consequences of actions must continue to evolve.
o BUT: Clayton and Dickinson: episodic-like memory can be observed in scrub jays. Birds
stored food then retrieved it depending on how long the interval was between storage and
Counterargument: these results don't show mental time travel in the sense of being
able to anticipate the future, they only show that birds know something about the
o Episodic Memory and Development
Tulving (1985): children acquire episodic memory relatively late compared with other
kinds of memory.
Episodic memory develops out of semantic memory.
Learning of children might largely involve the acquisitioni of general knowledge,
rather than acucmulation of personal experience.