chapter 6

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Published on 25 Feb 2011
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UTSC
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Psychology
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Chapter 6 Working Memory
1.Using Working Memory
Working memory short term mental storage and manipulation
operations
oKeeps certain bits of information accessible in mind, performs cognitive
operations on them, mulling them over, manipulating or transforming
them
oWorking memory can be thought o as involving a mental blackboard
that is, as a workspace that provides a temporary holding store so that
relevant information is highly accessible and available for inspection and
computation
oWhen cognitive tasks are accomplished, the information can be easily
erased, and the process can begin again with other information
1.1.A Computer Metaphor
The information stored in the hard disk is like long-term memory
RAM corresponds to working memory
oIn a computer, RAM is cleared and reset when the task executed by the
program is finished, or when the program is closed
The computer metaphor suggests 2 characteristics of working memory :
o1) RAM is completely flexible with regard to content. That is, there is no
fixed mapping between the location of a part of RAM and the program
that uses it; any program can access any part of RAM
o2) The more RAM a computer has, the more complex and sophisticated
the programs that can be run on it, and the more programs that be
running simultaneously
Working memory involves a content-free buffer, and cognitive abilities are
dependent on the size of the buffer
1.2. Implication of the Nature of Working Memory
People vary widely in working memory capacity (working memory span)
the amount of information that can be held accessible, and that these
differences predict general intelligence, verbal SAT scores and even the
speed with which a skill such as computer programming is acquired
2.From Primary Memory to Working Memory: A Brief History
Ideas regarding the nature and function of short-tem storage have evolved
considerably during the last hundred years
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2.1.William James: Primary Memory , Secondary Memory, and
Consciousness
The first discussion of a distinction between short-term and long-term storage
systems was put forth by pioneering American psychologist William James in the
late 19th century
James called these 2 forms of memory primary memory and secondary
memory , using these terms to indicate the degree of the relationship of the
stored information to consciousness
Primary memory the initial repository in which information can be
stored and made available to conscious inspection, attention, and
introspection
oIn this way, such information would be continually accessible
Secondary memory a long-term storage system, from which
information cannot be retrieved without initiating an active cognitive
process
2.2.Early Studies: The Characteristics of Short- Term Memory
George Miller, an early and influential cognitive theorist provided detailed
evidence that the capacity for short-term information storage is limited
oMiller suggested that people can keep only about 7 items active in short-
term storage, and that this limitation influences performance on a wide
range of mental tasks
o No matter how long the series is, correct recall of digits appears to
plateau at about 7 times (a little higher or lower for some people)
oAlthough there is a limitation on the number of items that can be
simultaneously held in short-term storage the definition of an item is
highly flexible and subject to manipulation
oChunks the grouping of single items into higher level units of
organization
Chunking might be governed by meaningfulness
The notion of Millers chunk idea is that short-term storage, those
possibly subject to certain constraints, is not rigid but amenable to
strategies, such as chunking, that can expand its capacity
Previous studies have suggested that the magical number might not actually
be 7 +/- 2, but may be much less 3 +/- 1.
oThis revised estimate comes from a review of studies that storage capacity
is much lower than seven when participants are prevented from using
strategies such as chunking or rehearsal
Short-term memory defined in terms of short duration and high level
of accessibility
2.2.1.Brevity of Duration
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A central idea regarding short-term memory was that information would be
available only for a very brief period if it were not rehearsed
Brown Peterson task an experimental technique for studying short-
term memory
Sensory memory a even briefer form of storage that serves to keep a
perceptual representation of a stimulus persisting for a few hundred
milliseconds after the sensory input is gone
The debate over whether information is lost from short-term memory because of
decay, in addition to interference, has not been resolved
2.2.2.Ready Accessibility
The high level of accessibility of information stored in short-term memory was
demonstrated in a classic set of studies conducted by Saul Sternberg (1966,
1969a)
Information held in short-term memory is very quickly accessible and the time to
access information in short-term memory is very short
2.3.The Atkinson-Shiffrin Model: The Relationship of Short-Term and
Long-Term Memory
The notion that short-term and long-term memory are distinct modes of storing
information was further articulated in the model proposed by Richard Atkinson
and Richard Shiffrin
Short-term memory serves as the gateway by which information can gain
access to long-term memory
oThe function of short term memory is to provide a means of controlling
and enhancing, via rehearsal and coding strategies (such as chunking),
the information that makes it into long-term memory
The Atkinson-Shiffrin Model- was highly influential because it laid out
a comprehensive view of information processing in memory
oAlso referred to as the modal model of memory
Working memory captures the notion that a temporary storage system
might provide a useful workplace in which to engage in complex
cognitive activities
Today the modal model does not have the influence it once has
What caused this shift in perspective?
oThe Atkinson-Shiffrin model is essentially sequential: information passes
through short-term memory before entering long-term memory
oNeuropsychological data shows that this assumption is incorrect
oInformation can gain access to the long-term memory system even when
the short-term memory system is dramatically impaired
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Document Summary

Ideas regarding the nature and function of short-tem storage have evolved considerably during the last hundred years www. notesolution. com. William james: primary memory , secondary memory, and. Consciousness: the first discussion of a distinction between short-term and long-term storage systems was put forth by pioneering american psychologist william james in the late 19th century. Ready accessibility: the high level of accessibility of information stored in short-term memory was demonstrated in a classic set of studies conducted by saul sternberg (1966, Information held in short-term memory is very quickly accessible and the time to access information in short-term memory is very short. The atkinson-shiffrin model: the relationship of short- term and.  the atkinson-shiffrin model could not account for this result: with a poorly functioning short-term memory, according to atkinson- Shiffrin model: the function of short-term storage in the baddeley-hitch model is not primarily as a way station for information to reside en route to long-term memory.