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Chapter 5

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PSYC 2650
Anneke Olthof

Chapter 5: The Acquisition of Memories and the Working Memory System  Before there can be a memory; some learning must occur. New information must be acquired (acquisition phase)  Once info has been acquired, it must be held in memory until it is needed (storage phase). Finally, we use the information that is in memory; we remember (retrieval phase) The Route into Memory  Information processing – complex mental events such as learning, remembering, or deciding actually involves a large number of discrete steps, steps occur one by one, each with its own characteristics and its own job to do  Great deal of information-processing theory focused on processes through which information was detected, recognized, and entered into memory storage – on the process of information acquisition The Modal Model  Information processing involves different kinds of memory, 2 of which are short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM)  STM holds on to info currently in use, limited in how much it can hold, and is instantly and easily available to you  Working Memory – emphasizes the function of the STM  LTM contains all info you remember (memories of what you did yesterday, how you spent your childhood, a vast number of facts about various topics, etc.)  There is close association between working memory and the contents of your current thinking, there is no such association for LTM. At any point in time, most material in LTM lies dormant, and so process of retrieving info from LTM, making the info available for use, often requires some hunting and can sometimes be effortful and slow. Working Memory (WM) and Long-Term Memory: One Memory or Two?  Distinction between WM and LTM. Read series of words “bicycle, artichoke, radio, chair, palace”  Typical experiment list might contain 30 words presented at 1 word/second. Immediately after list is read, participants asked to repeat as many words as possible in any order they choose (free recall procedure)  People usually remember 12-15 words in consistent pattern. More likely to remember first few words on list (primacy effect) and also last few words on list (recency effect) – makes u-shaped curve describing relation between position within series (serial position) and likelihood of recall  WM contains material someone is working on at just that moment, and during the list presentation. The participants are of course thinking about the words they are hearing. Therefore, it is these words that are in WM – limited in size and capable of only holding 5-6 words. So as participants try to keep up with the list presenting, they will be placing the words just heard into WM, and will bump the previous words out. As participants proceed through list, working memories will contain only the half dozen words that arrived most recently  The list‟s ending is still in WM when the list ends, and WM‟s contents are easy to retrieve (source of recency effect)  According to the modal model, the transfer of material from WM to LTM depends on processes that require time and attention o As participants hear the list, they do their best to be good memorizers, and so, when they hear the first word, they repeat it over and over to themselves (“bicycle, bicycle, bicycle”) – called memory rehearsal. This first word takes up 100% of effort, and then 50% when 2nd word added, then 33% when 3rd added, and so on A Closer Look at Working Memory The Function of Working Memory  When info currently in use or likely to be needed soon, it is held in WM o Implies that WM will be involved in wide range of tasks  WM‟s capacity varies somewhat from one individual to the next  Someone with larger-capacity WM likely to be more efficient reader, confirming the role for WM in reading o Larger capacities better off in many types of reasoning skills, making it clear that working memory matters here The Holding Capacity of Working Memory  How do we measure capacity of someone‟s WM?  Many years, measured by digit-span task – people asked to read series of digits and must immediately repeat them back, if they do this successfully, they are given a longer list, this continues until the person starts to make errors (usually when there are 7 or 8 digits)  Imply that WM‟s capacity is around 7/8 items, or more cautiously, at least 5 items and probably not more than 9 = “7 plus-or- minus-2” items. But what is an item? George Miller proposed WM holds 7 plus-or-minus-2 packages o What packages contain is largely up to individual o Imagine that someone hears a list like “H, O, P, T, R, A, S, L, U”. If person thinks of them as individual letters, then will remember 7-8, but if person recognizes list and thinks of letters as forming syllables (“HOP, TRA, SLU”) they will remember 5 or 6 of these syllables, and therefore 15-18 letters  WM has not changed itself, instead people‟s chunking strategy has changed The Active Nature of WM  The language of the modal model seems to imply that working is something like a box in which information is stored  Traditional span test is, in essence, designed to count the number of „slots‟ in WM, with each item on the test being placed in its own slot o Does little to measure WM‟s capacity to do things with these slots, and this concern has led researchers to develop more dynamic measure of WM – measures of reading span or operation span, designed specifically to measure the efficiency of WM when it is „working‟  To measure reading span, researcher participants might be asked to read aloud a series of sentences. Immediately after reading the sentences, each participants is asked to recall the final words in sentences, each participants is asked to recall the final words in the sentences. If the person can do this then turns into 3 sentences, 4 and so on until the limit on performance is located o Task involves: storing some materials (the ending words) for later se in the recall test, while simultaneously working with other materials (the full sentences) The WM System  WM is not a singly entity, but a system built out of several components  At the center is the central executive, a multipurpose processor capable of running many different operations on many different types of material  WM‟s helpers serve as internal scratch pads; storing info you will need soon but don‟t need right now. One of these helpers is the visuo-spatial bugger (used for storing visual materials, e.g. mental images); another is the articulatory rehearsal loop (used for storing verbal material) The Central Executive  Many sites in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) are particularly active when people are engaged in tasks that make heavy use of WM  Often people who have suffered frontal lobe damage can still lead relatively normal lives o With appropriate tests we can reveal the disruption that results form frontal lobe damage, turns out that disruption takes several different forms  Patients with frontal lesions show pattern of Goal Neglect – relying on habitual responses even if those responses won‟t move them toward assigned goal in particular task  Perseveration – pattern emerges in many aspects of the patients‟ behaviour and involves strong tendency to produce same response over and over, even when plain that the task requires change in response  E.g. patients asked to sort out deck of cards into 2 piles. At start, sort by colour, later need to switch and sort according to shapes shown on cards  Have extreme difficulty making the shift, and continue to sort by colour (i.e. they persevere in the original pattern)  Different pattern shown when patients with frontal lobe damage are asked to make a copy of a drawing (Page 147, Figure 5.6) o Preserves many features of original drawing, but closer inspection reveals that patient drew the copy with no particular plan in mind  Suggests that PFC is pivotal in allowing people to plan and organize their activities. Is crucial for inhibition of impulses and for “turning off” responses once they have been launched (problem of perseveration) o Likely to contribute to what we are calling the Central Executive – mental resources that order, organize, and control mental lives The Nature of WM  Current conceptions view WM as being quite fragile, since each shift in attention brings new info into WM, and newly arriving materials displace earlier items Entering Long-Term Storage: The Role of the Intent to Learn Two Types of Rehearsal  “Rehearsal” really means little beyond “thinking about”  Considerable variety in the sorts of activity that count as rehearsal, and, in fact, psychologists find it useful to sort this variety into 2 broad types o Maintenance Rehearsal – simply focus on the to-be remembered items themselves, with little thought about what the items mean or how they are related to each other – this is rote, mechanical process, recycling items in WM simply by repeating them over and over o Relational/Elaborative Rehearsal
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