1. “Common Sense” Models of Memory (to discuss their shortcomings)
2. The Cognitive Model of Memory
A. Memory as a Reconstructive Process
Processes and Stages
C. Application: Eyewitness Memory
3. Improving Your Memory
A. “Paying attention”
C. Retrieval strategies
1. “Common Sense” Models of Memory
our goal here is to scrutinize so called “common sense” models, discuss their
shortcomings, and set up our subsequent discussion on what psychology now has to offer
about memory, which is the Cognitive Model
“common sense” models differ primarily on the question: “Is memory a permanent
thing?” “There’s no way you could still remember that!” “No one could forget something
the “Freudian Model” suggests that all memories, especially for “traumatic” events,
remain perfectly intact forever but are often inaccessible (repressed) under normal
conditions, so a special strategy must be used to gain access. If they want to remember it
must go through special strategy- psychoanalytical process ex hypnosis, dream
interpretation, word association, or so called truth-serum
An idea about 1895-1915 that has remained a part of Western Culture, although
not a major part of modern psychology.
The modern mainstream psychology view is that there is no scientifically
acceptable evidence to support the Freudian model as the way that memories are
stored, although its still popular in dramatic portrayals of memory phenomena.
And some therapists hold this view especially concerning alleged repressed
memories of childhood. Sexual abuse as an explanation for adult problems like
anorexia, failed relationships, depression etc, with tragic consequences
o but there's hasn't been any scientifically-acceptable evidence over the past 100
years to support the Freudian model as the way that memories are stored
the “Videotape Model” also assumes that at least some memories remain perfectly intact,
like a videotape of the event. Updated version of Freudian Model. Play it back exactly how
but has the same limitations as the Freudian model: no supporting evidence and
much contradictory evidence
we’ll see that the current mainstream cognitive view of memory views all
memories as vulnerable to forgetting, distortion and inaccuracy.
Photographic memory: certainly some people show better memory than others and
most people use imagery as a part of their memory. No credible evidence to sugest
that there has ever been a person with photographic memory, if you interpret
photograph to mean:
o Genetic, instant, passive/effortless, exhaustive
o Anders Ericson video clip including Rajan pg 285
There area few people with outstanding memory abilities that still challenge our
understanding of how memory works. A.J described on pg 284
George Finn, Kim Peek (“Rain Men?”)
Daniel Tammet “60 minutes” Clip, has symptoms of autism the “Simple Biological Model” claims just the opposite of the other two models – that all
memories necessarily decay over time
but research findings suggest that not all parts of all memories are necessarily
susceptible to “decay” over time
acknowledges that memories are stored in the brain and that the brain is composed
of cells, and cells are known to die off at an apparently alarming rate. So memories
must decay over time?
Cells died off = memories lost, and no retrieval strategy can access them right?
Research findings suggest that complex memories are NOT stored in single cells
and are therefore not necessarily susceptible to decay over time just because some
brain cells die off.
Although new research suggest more of a role for individual cells than was
previously believed (e.g “the halle berry neuron” described on pg 308
It’s possible although not guaranteed for memories to exist for long periods of
time. Especially if they are repeatedly reactivated through recall, even if we
acknowledge the biological limitations of the brain.
2. The Cognitive Model of Memory
contains a little bit of everything to address the shortcomings of the other models
Takes good stuff from common sense models of memory
o From the Freudian model, we recognize that there might be information in memory that is
difficult to access.
o From the Videotape model, we borrow phrases familiar to most people to help them recall
(eg; slow motion, fast forward)
o From the biological model, we acknowledge the biological basis of memory (e.g processing
limitations, disabilities, injuries)
An emphasis on practical problems such as police procedures, instead of on just laboratory
Recognizes examples of dramatic memory performance and failure that need to be accounted
Recognizes the crucial role of brain physiology as well as non memory factors such as
motivation to remember.
A. Memory as a Reconstructive Process
There is no videotape experience
memories are not stored as exact replicas of our experiences, and do not allow us to passively
reproduce an experience from some stored information
instead, memories are the result of reconstruction: reactivating connections among brain
cells that were made when something was experienced or learned (called the connectionist
there is no brain cell for a particular complex memory, or a categorized videotape-like file to
o So events aren’t “reproduced” when they’re remembered – they are reconstructed ( you built
that house out of lego, but you stopped thinking about it and the pieces got put in the box
again. You need to rebuild it from scratch)
The current view is that memories are the result of reactivating the pattern of connections
among brain cells that were made when something was first experienced or learned.
So a memory is represented by he reactivation of a relatively unique pattern of neural
activity. Its not the neuron, it’s the PATTERN. Loss of some cells over time and overlap with similar patterns means that some accurate
information will typically be lost and some inaccurate info will be added.
A central theme here is the notion of a memory “schema”
o Schema: a cognitively economical strategy for combining similar events and information
into a common pattern of neuron connections. Ex. Romantic comedies, first dates, first
classes, tendency to lump those together and create “1 size fits all” for memories
o Especially detailed schemas are sometimes called “scripts” like a restaurant script, first-date
script etc.. Ex. Coffee spilled on you, makes you recall it.
Schemas allow us to retrieve examples make inferences, and draw conclusions from memory
that are mostly accurate
o But we don’t necessarily have all the details of the individual events and original
The Cognitive Model of Memory:
B. Memory Processes and Stages
“stimuli” (things we can see, hear, taste, smell, or touch) have to go through many stages
of processing by our body and brain if they are to be remembered later
information can be lost at each of these stages
o some loss is beyond our control, some loss we can do something about
the first process is perception and the first stage is sensory memory
o sensory memory holds information very briefly (less than half a second in some
o information is lost here if it is not quickly picked up by the second process...
the second process is attention and the second stage is short-term memory (STM)
characteristics of STM d