Chapter 7: Attention and Memory
Memory = the nervous system’s capacity to acquire and retain usable skills and
knowledge, allowing organisms to benefit from experience.
Anne Treisman’s theory about attention and recognition: we automatically
identify “primitive” features, such as color, shape, orientation and movement, within
an environment. She proposed that separate system’s analyze objects’ different
Through parallel processing, these systems all process information at the same time,
and we can attend selectively to one feature by effectively blocking further
processing of the others.
Conjunction task = when the stimulus you are looking for is made up of two simple
Cocktail party phenomenon (Cherry) = you can focus on a single conversation in the
midst of a chaotic cocktail party, yet a particular pertinent stimulus, such as hearing
your name mentioned in another conversation or hearing a juicy piece of gossip, can
capture your attention.
Shadowing (Cherry) = selective-listening studies; a participant wears headphones
that deliver one message to one ear and a different message to the other. The person
is asked to attend to one of the two messages and “shadow” it by repeating it aloud.
The subject usually notices the unattended sound but will have no knowledge about
Filter theory (Donald Broadbent) = selective nature of attention; people have
limited capacity for sensory information and thus screen incoming information
letting in only the most important.
Scientific Method: Change blindness studies
Hypothesis: People can be “blind” to large changes around them
1) A participant is approached by a stranger asking for directions
2) The stranger is momentarily blocked by a large object
3) While being blocked, the original stranger is replaced by another person.
Results: Half the participants giving directions never noticed they were talking to a
different person (as long as the replacement was of the same sex and race as the
Conclusion: Change blindness results from inattention to certain visual information. Change blindness = the common failure to notice large changes in environments.
Encoding = the processing of information so that it can be stored.
Storage = the retention of encoded representations over time that corresponds to
some change in the nervous system that registers the event.
Retrieval = the act of recalling or remembering stored information to use it.
Modal memory model = the three-stage memory system that involves sensory
memory, short-term memory and long-term memory.
Sensory memory = memory for sensory information that is stored briefly close to its
original sensory form.
Short-term memory (STM) = a limited-capacity system that holds information in
awareness for a brief period.
Scientific Method: Sperling’s sensory memory experiment
Hypothesis: Information in sensory memories is lost very quickly if it is not
transferred for further processing.
1) Participants looked at a screen on which three rows of letters flashed for
one-twelfth of a second.
2) When a high-pitched tone followed the letters, it meant the participants
should recall the letters in the top row. When a medium-pitched tone
followed the letters, it meant the participants should recall the middle row.
And when a low-pitched tone followed the letters, it meant the participants
should recall the bottom row
3) The tones sounded at various intervals: .15, .30, .50 or 1 second after the
display of the letters.
Results: When the tone sounded very shortly after the letters disappeared,
participants remembered almost all the letters in the signaled row. The longer the
delay between the disappearance of the letters and the tone, the worse the
Conclusion: Sensory memory persists for about one-third of a second and then
Working memory (WM) or immediate memory = an active processing system that
keeps different types of information available for current use. Chunking = organizing information into meaningful units to make it easier to
4 components of working memory:
1) Central executive – the control system; it encodes information from the
sensory systems and then filters information that is sufficiently important to
be stored in long-term memory; it retrieves information from the long-term
memory as needed; it relies on the other 3 component, which temporarily
hold auditory or visuospatial information or personally relevant information.
2) Phonological loop – encodes auditory information and is active whenever a
person tries to remember words by reading them, speaking them or
3) Visuospatial sketchpad – processes visual information; visual and spatial
4) Episodic buffer – integrated information about oneself.
Long-term memory (LTM) = the relatively permanent storage of information.
Serial position effect = the ability to recall items from a list depends on order of
presentation, with items presented early or late in the list remembered better than
those in the middle.
Primacy effect = refers to the better memory people have for items presented at the
beginning of the list.
Recency effect = refers to people’s better memory for the most recent items, the
items at the end of a list.
Implicit memory = the system underlying unconscious memories.
Explicit memory = the processes involved when people remember specific
Declarative memory = the cognitive information retrieved from explicit memory;
knowledge that can be declared
Episodic memory = memory for one’s personal past experiences.
Semantic memory = memory for knowledge about the world.
False fame effect (Larry Jacoby) = McMaster students misjudged made up names
from the previous day as famous people’s names. Implicit memory led them to
assume familiar names were the names of famous people. Repetition priming = the improvement in the identifying or processing a stimulus
that has been experienced previously; implicit memory is involved.
E.g. participants are exposed to a list of words and asked to do something, such as
count the number of letters in a word. Following some brief delay, the participants
are shown word fragments and asked to complete them with the first word that
comes to mind. Typically the participants would complete the words with words
that they had already encountered, which were primed (activated in memory) and
therefore easily accessible.
Procedural memory or motor memory = a type of implicit memory that involves
motor skills and behavioral habits.
Prospective memory = remembering to do something at some time in the future. It
involves both automatic and controlled processes.
Levels of processing model (Fergus Craik and Robert Lockhart) = the more deeply
an item is encoded, the more meaning it has and the better it is remembered.
Maintenance rehearsal = simply repeating the item over and over.
Elaborative rehearsal = encodes the information in more meaningful ways, such as
thinking about the item conceptually, or deciding whether it refers to oneself.
Schema = a hypothetical cognitive structure that helps us perceive, organize,
process and use information. Decisions about how to chunk information depend on