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Chapter 6

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University of Alberta
Blaine Mullins

CHAPTER 6 Memory Systems Chapter Summary This chapter introduces the topic of memory systems. Psychologist Endel Tulving proposed the principle of encoding specificity, which states that the retrieval of an item from memory depends on how that item was originally encoded in memory. Furthermore, Tulving distinguished between episodic memory (memory system concerned with personally experienced events) and semantic memory (memory system concerned with knowledge of words, concepts, and their relationships). This view of separate memories was sup- ported by experiments on amnesic patients, such as WJ, whose brain injury severely disrupted her episodic memory but spared her semantic memory. Rather than showing a recency bias (tendency to recall events from recent past) in recalling events, WJ demonstrated a primacy bias (tendency to recall events from relatively distant past). NN was another amnesic patient who also demonstrated the dissociation between memory systems, showing deficits in episodic memory but not semantic memory. Since Tulving’s distinction between semantic and episodic memory, there have been other memory systems proposed. For example, procedural memory refers to skilled performances, like that these three systems are each associated with a different form of consciousness. Proceduralsay memory, for instance, is associated with anoetic consciousness (“non-knowing”), semantic memory with noetic consciousness (“knowing”), and episodic memory with autonoetic consciousness (“self-knowing”). Prefrontal leucotomy refers to an abandoned surgical procedure that severs the connections between the prefrontal lobe and the rest of the brain. The procedure relates this autonoetic con- sciousness to the frontal lobe. Tulving termed people’s sense of subjective time chronesthesia. He also proposed the idea that episodic memory develops later in children when compared to semantic memory. Cognition, Fifth Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 Tulving also differentiated between remembering and knowing, explaining that people can know something without exactly remembering the related event (butcher-on-the-bus-phenomenon). This distinction led to the emergence of implicit memory, which is memory without any episodic awareness. Amongst many approaches, the method of opposition has been used to study implicit memory. The findings from experiments on implicit memory have supported the idea of a fourth memory system, the perceptual representation system, which is thought to be accountable for priming effects. Semantic memory, on the other hand, refers to memory for facts and general knowledge. When you can’t come quite come up with the memory, but feel as if you know it, you are experiencing the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. As one of the first models for semantic memory, Quillian created a computer program called the teachable language comprehender (TLC). Experiments testing Quillian’s model have used the notion of mental chronometry to assess predictions made by the model, and have led to findings that possibly contradict what would be predicted by the model. Other experiments on semantic memory, such as the Moses illusion, have been quite insightful. For instance, the emergence of the spreading activation notion has shed light on how priming works. Involuntary semantic memories, or mind popping as Kvavilashvili and Mandler called it, are an example of priming. The fifth memory system, working memory, refers to the performance of complex cognitive tasks based on readily accessible information. Baddeley, who proposed this system, describes several interrelated components including memory storage subsystems like the phonological loop, visuo- spatial sketchpad, and the episodic buffer, as well as the attentionally based control system known as the central executive. The central executive and these subsystems are said to be fluid systems, whereas visual semantics, episodic long-term memory, and language are crystallized sys- tems. According to the connectionist model, in order for previous events to be recalled, some connec- tions need to be inhibited while others need to be excited. With age, this becomes more difficult. Naveh-Benjamin, for example, came up with the associative deficit hypothesis to account for the trouble elderly people have in recalling names and faces. Another problem with memory that is not associated with age but rather with alcoholism, is Korsakoff’s syndrome, a form of amnesia. Pa- tients suffering from it are said to have a disconnection syndrome. Of course, Alzheimer’s disease also has strong implications for memory. With such a disease, as well as with aging, remembering to do things at a future time (prospective memory) becomes difficult and in some cases nearly impos- sible. Errorless learning, however, has been shown to make the most out of patients’ intact memory. For amnesic patients, it is the act of learning new skills that helps them (method of van- ishing cues). Key Concepts Anoetic, noetic, and autonoetic (Tulving) Three levels of consciousness corresponding to pro- cedural, semantic, and episodic memory systems. (p. 171) Associative deficit hypothesis Older adults have a deficiency in creating and retrieving links be- tween single units of information. (p. 189) Butcher-on-the-bus phenomenon A feeling of knowing a person without being able to remem- ber the circumstances of any previous meeting or anything else about the person. (p. 173) Cognition, Fifth Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 Central executive The function of the brain that co-ordinates information that may be represented in the subsystems of working memory. (p. 183) Chronesthesia (Tulving) Our subjective sense of time. (p. 172) Crystallized systems Cognitive systems that accumulate long-term knowledge. (p. 183) Disconnection syndrome Amnesic patients may be able to acquire new information and yet not be aware of the fact that learning has taken place. (p. 192) Episodic buffer The mechanism that moves information to and from episodic memory and long- term memory (p. 183) Episodic memory (Tulving) The memory system concerned with personally experienced events. (p. 166) Errorless learning The subject in a learning situation is allowed to only perform the task correctly to prevent any opportunity of learning to do something incorrectly. (p. 195) Excitatory and inhibitory connections A neural network is made up of connections that either enhance or diminish the associations between units. (p. 186) Explicit knowledge Knowing that something is the case. (p. 170) Fluid systemsCognitive processes that manipulate information. (p. 183) Implicit memory Memory without episodic awareness—the expression of previous experience without conscious recollection of the prior episode. (p. 173) Involuntary semantic memory (“mind popping”) Whenever a semantic memory pops into your mind without episodic context. (p. 181) Korsakoff’s syndrome A form of amnesia typically due to chronic alcoholism combined with thi- amine deficiency. (p. 191) Lexical decision task A task requiring participants to determine if a presented string of letters is a word or not. (p. 180) Mental chronometryMeasuring how long cognitive processes take. (p. 179) Method of opposition Pitting conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) tendencies against one another. (p. 175) Method of vanishing cues Amnesic participants learned the meaning of computer commands by being presented with definitions of the commands and fragments of their names (e.g., S—— for the command SAVE). Additional letters were presented until the participant guessed the word. Then Cognition, Fifth Edition © Oxford University Press Canada, 2013 letters were progressively removed until the patient was able to give the name of the command upon being presented with its definition. (p. 195) Moses illusion People will respond to questions with embedded errors by assuming the error is ir- relevant, for example, by answering How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark? by saying Two. (p. 179) Perceptual representation system The memory system containing very specific representation of events that is thought to be responsible for priming effects. (p. 176) Phonological loop and visuo-spatial sketchpad Temporary stores of linguistic and nonverbal
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