PSYB57H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Short-Term Memory, Free Recall

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10 Apr 2012
B57: Chapter 5- The Acquisition of Memories and the Working-Memory System
Ways of organizing information:
·Acquisition- the process of placing new info into LT memory
·Storage- the state in which memory, once acquired, remains dormant until it is retrieved
·Retrieval- a connection that can lead to a sought-after memory in LT storage
·For many years theorizing in cognitive psych was guided by a perspective known as information
·Learning, memorizing, deciding involved a large number of discrete steps; each step has its own
job and characteristics, w/ each providing as its “output” the input to the next step in the sequence
·This theory focused on the processes through which info was detected, reorganized, and entered
into memory storage --, that is on the process of info acquisition
·Modal model- a nickname for a specific conception of the “architecture” of memory. in this
model working memory serves as the storage site for material now being contemplated and also
as the :loading platform” for LT memory. Info can reach working memory through the processes
of perception, or it can be drawn from LT memory. Once in working memory, material can
simply be recycled for subsequent use.
Modal Model
·According to this mode, our info processing involves 2 different kinds of
oShort term memory- an older term for what is now called
working memory
oLong term memory- the storage system in which we hold all of
our knowledge and all of our memories. LT memory contains
memories that are not currently activated; those that are activated
are represented in working memory
·All mental tasks rely on working memory bc all mental tasks involve inputs or sequences of steps
that are stretched out in time; that creates a short lived memory demand while you are working on
what comes next, only then w/ later steps finished can you put all of the pieces together; the
working memory provides a mental ‘desk space’ – a resource that lets you hang on to ideas,
images, and memories while you’re working on them
Working Memory and LT Memory: One Memory or Two?
·The distinction bw the two can be evidenced in a free recall procedure- a method of assessing
memory. the person being tested is asked to come up w/ as many items as possible from a
particular source in any sequence
·People usually remember 12-15 words in such a test
·Primacy effect- an often observed advantage in remembering the early-presented
materials within a sequence of materials. this advantage is generally attributed to the
fact that one can focus attention on these items, b/c at the beginning of a sequence one
is obviously not trying to divide attention bw these items and other items in the series.
·Recency effect- the tendency to remember materials that occur late in a series
·This pattern is illustrated as a U-Shaped curve describing the relation bw position
within the series (or serial position) and likelihood of recall
oserial position- a data pattern summarizing the relationship bw some performance
measure and the order in which the test materials were presented. In memory studies the
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serial position curves tend to be U shaped, w/ people best able to recall the first presented
items and also the last presented items
·This serial position curve is easily explained by the modal model; the working memory is limited
in its size, capable of holding a few words; consequently as participants try to keep up w/ the
words, they will be placing words they just heard into their working memory and this will bump
the previous words out of the memory. Thus as they proceed through the list, at each moment,
they will contain only the half dozen words that arrived most recently. = this backs up recency
·However, the transfer of material from working mem to LTM depends on processes that require
time and attn. as participants hear the list, they do their best to be good memorizers etc. when
they hear the first word they repeat it over to not forget it (aka memory rehearsal) thus the first
few words on the list are privileged and words later learned receive less attention overtime. = this
backs up primacy effect
oB/c these first words are constantly being repeated, they have a greater chance of being
transferred into LTM and so a greater chance of being recalled after a delay
·Other predictions:
oThe model claims that the recency portion of the curve is coming from working memory,
while the other items on the list are being recalled from LTM
If after this test you ask participants to randomly start counting numbers
backwards (i.e. count down from 40 down), even for a few seconds, this will
eliminate the recency effect as it will displace working memory’s current
content; but this will not effect the primacy effect as there is no reason to think
the counting task will interfere w/ LTM (that’s because unlike working memory,
LTM is not dependent on current activity) = proven true
oThe model makes a diff set of predictions for experiments that manipulate LT memory
rather than working memory. In this case the manipulation should affect all performance
except for recency. I.e. what if we slow down the presentation of the list? Now
participants have more time to spend on all of the list items, increasing the likelihood of
transfer into more permanent storage, this should improve recall for items coming from
LTM. Working memory in contrast is limited thus the slower list should have no
influence on working memory performance. So slowing down the list improves retention
of all the pre-recency items but does not improve the recency effect.
The Function of Working Memory
·Helps coordinate pieces of information by being involved in a wide range of tasks
·Evidence shows that people w/ a larger capacity working memory = more likely to be an efficient
reader, better off in reasoning skills, performance on SAT’s, computer language, learning,
directions and more.
The Holding Capacity of Working Memory
·We measure the capacity of someone’s working memory through a digit span task- a task often
used for measuring working memory’s storage capacity. Research participants are read a series of
studies and must immediately repeat them back. if they do this successfully they are given
slightly longer list and so forth. the length of the longest list a person can remember in this
fashion is that person’s digit span.
·It is bw 5-9 with an average of 7; these estimates are often summarized by the statement that this
memory holds “7 plus-or-minus 2” items
·These measurements can be misleading:
oWhat exactly is meant by an item?
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