Course: PSYC*1000 (DE)
Professor: Harvey Marmurek
Schedule: Summer, 2012
Textbook: Psychology – Tenth Edition in Modules authored by David G. Myers
Textbook ISBN: 9781464102615
Module 23: Studying and Building Memories
What is memory?
Memory is learning that has persisted over time, information that has been stored and can be retrieved. To a
psychologist, evidence that learning persists takes three forms:
• Recall – retrieving information that is not currently in your conscious awareness but that was learned at an
earlier time. A fill-in-the-blank question tests your recall.
• Recognition – identifying items previously learned. A multiple-choice question tests your recognition.
• Relearning – learning something more quickly when you learn it a second or later time. When you study for
a final exam or engage a language used in early childhood, you will relearn the material more easily than
you did initially.
Measures of Retention
What are three measures of retention?
Recall, recognition, and relearning speed are three ways that psychologists measure retention of memories. Can
recognize more than we can recall. Our speed at relearning also reveals memories. German philosopher Hermann
Ebbinghaus used nonsense syllables.
Tests of recognition and of time spent relearning demonstrate that we remember more than we can recall.
If you want to be sure to remember what you’re learning for an upcoming test, would it be better to use recall or
recognition to check your memory? Why?
It would be better to test your memory with recall (such as with short-answer or fill-in-the-blank self-test questions)
rather than recognition (such as with multiple-choice questions). Recalling information is harder than recognizing it,
so if you can recall it means your retention of the material is better than if you could only recognize it, and your
chances of test success are therefore greater.
How do psychologists describe the human memory system?
Information–processing models are analogies that compare human memory to a computer’s operations. Thus, to
remember any event, we must:
• Get information into our brain, a process called encoding.
• Retain that information, a process called storage.
• Later get the information back out, a process called retrieval.
Our dual-track brain processes many things simultaneously (some of them unconsciously) by means of parallel
processing. To focus on this complex, simultaneous processing, one information-processing model, connectionism,
views memories as products of interconnected neural networks. Specific memories arise from particular activation
patterns within these networks. Every time you learn something new, your brain’s neural connections change,
forming and strengthening pathways that allow you to interact and learn from your constantly changing environment.
To explain our memory-forming process, Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin proposed a three-stage model.
1. We first record to-be-remembered information as a fleeting sensory memory.
2. From there, we process information into short-term memory.
3. Finally information moves into long-term memory for later retrieval.
Other psychologists have updated this mode to include important newer concepts including working memory and
External Events Sensory Memory – attention to important or novel information (encoding) working/short-term
memory (maintenance rehearsal) – encoding – retrieving long-term memory storage
A modified here-stage processing model of memory – Atkinson and Shiffrin’s classic three-step model helps us to
think about how memories are processed, but today’s researchers recognize other ways long-term memories form. Such much active processing occurs in the short-term memory stage that many now prefer the term working
Alan Baddeley and others challenged Atkinson and Shiffrin’s view of short-term memory as a small, brief storage
space for recent thoughts and experiences. Not just a temporary shelf for holding incoming info, but an active
desktop where your brain processes information, making sense of new input and linking it with long-term memories.
Auditory rehearsal Central executive (focuses attention) visual-spatial information
| both ways - long-term memory |
Alan Baddeley’s model of working memory, simplified here, includes visual and auditory rehearsal of new
information. A hypothetical central executive (manager) focuses attention and pulls information from long-term
memory to help make sense of new information.
Without focused attention, information often fades.
Dual-Track Memory: Effortful Versus Automatic Processing
How are explicit and implicit memories distinguished?
Atkinson and Shiffrin’s model focused on how we process our explicit memories – the facts and
experiences that we can consciously know and declare. But our mind operates on two tracks. It processes explicit
memories through conscious, effortful processing. But behind the scenes, outside the Atkinson-Shiffrin stages, other
information skips our conscious encoding and barges directly into storage. The automatic processing, which
happens without our awareness, produces implicit memories.
The two-track memory system reinforces an important principle of parallel processing: Mental feats such as
vision thinking, and memory may seem to be single abilities, but they are not. Rather, we split information into
different components for separate and simultaneous processing
What two new concepts update the classic Atkinson-Shffrin three-stage information-processing model?
(1) We form some memories (implicit memories) through automatic processing, without our awareness.
The Atkinson-Shiffrin model focused only on conscious, explicit memories. (2) The newer concept of a working
memory emphasizes the active processing that we now know takes place in Atkinson-Shiffrin’s short-term memory
What are two basic functions of working memory?
(1) Active processing of incoming visual and auditory information, and (2) focusing our spotlight of attention.
Encoding and Automatic Processing
What information do we automatically process?
Our implicit memories include procedural memory for automatic skills. Without conscious effort you also
automatically process information about: space, time, frequency
Encoding and Effortful Processing
How does sensory memory work?
Effortful processing begins with sensory memory, which feeds our active working memory. Sensory memory
records a momentary image of a scene or an echo of a sound. George Sperl