Acquisition of Memories &
Before there can be a memory, some learning must occur; that is, new information must be acquired.
Once acquiring information, it must be held in memory until it's needed.
finally, we use the info we remember.
info is somehow found in the vast warehouse that is memory and brought into active use.
these terms are:
acquisition: the process of placing new info into long-term memory.
storage: where memory is stored.
retrieval: process of locating memory and activating it.
Route into Memory
Theorizing in cognitive psychology was guided by a perspective called information processing.
information processing: complex, mental events, such as learning, remembering, and deciding, are understood as
being built up out of a large number of discrete step.
these steps occur one by one, with each providing as its "output" the input to the next step in the sequence
Information Early Long-Term
in the diagram above, arrows indicate the flow of information from one process to another.
a great deal of info was detected, recognized, and entered into memory storage
Atkinson-Shiffrin consensus model came to be known as the modal model.
modal model: our info processing involves two different kinds of memory: short-term and long-term memory.
a) short-term memory: hold on to info currently in use.
limited in how much it can hold
easily and instantly available to you
working memory: a term that emphasizes the function of this memory.
o a system of mental resources used for holding info in an easily accessible form
o all mental tasks rely on working memory because it involves sequence of steps
b) long-term memory: much larger memory that includes all our knowledge and all our memories.
contains memories that aren't currently active
contains memories from what you did yesterday to childhood memories, etc.
no association and not dependent with working memory
much of the material here lies dormant, and process of retrieving info here requires more effort and is
sometimes slow. Working memory and Long-Term Memory
Evidence demand in the distinction between working memory and LTM. Using the modal model:
free recall: a method of assessing memory.
The person being tested is asked to come up with as many items as possible from a particular source, in any
people usually remember 12 to 15 words in a 30 word test
primary effect: likely to remember the first things on the list
the transfer of material from working memory to LTM depends on processes that require time and attention
as participants hear the list, they do their best to be good memorizers, so when they hear the first word, they
repeat it over and over to themselves.
memory rehearsal: repeating something you've heard repeatedly to maintain info in working memory.
as more words are presented, you have to divide your attention which means that each word only receives a
small fraction of effort.
recency effect: likely to remember the last things on the list
during the list presentation, participants are thinking about words they hear
as participants proceed through the list, their working memories will, at each moment, contain only half a
dozen words that arrived most recently
any words earlier than these will have been pushed out by later arrivals
when the list of presentation ends, last few words stay in place, so easier to recall
materials in working memory are readily available- easily and quickly retrieved.
serial position: relationship between a measure of performance and the order of which the test materials were
shows a U-shaped curve and the likelihood of recall.
manipulating working memory:
recency portion of the curve is coming from the working memory while other items on the list are being recalled from
primary effect reveals:
early words have a greater chance of being transferred into LTM
greater chance of being recalled after a delay
any manipulation of working memory should affect recall of the recency items, but not recall of other items on the list.
an activity interpolated between the list and recall essentially eliminates recency effect, but has no effect on the other
items on the list
merely delaying the recall for a few seconds after the list's end, with no interpolated activity, has no impact.
manipulating long-term memory:
manipulation should affect all performance except for recency.
if we slow down the presentation of the list:
improves retrieval from LTM
has no influence on working memory performance
improves retention of all pre-recency items
fMRI scans suggest that memory for early items on a list depends on brain areas that are associated with long-term
memory; memory for later items on the list don't show this pattern.
Closer Look at Working Memory
The Function of Working Memory
When info is currently in use or likely to be needed soon, it is held in working memory.
working memory will be involved in a wide range of tasks
working memory's capacity varies from one individual to the next
someone with a larger capacity working memory is likely to:
be a more efficient reader, confirming the role of working memory in reading
be better off in many types of reasoning skills, making it clear that working memory matters The Holding Capacity of Working Memory
We can measure someone's working memory capacity with a digit-span task. (like a span test)
digit-span task: people are read a series of digits, and must immediately repeat them back. If they do so successfully,
they are given a slightly longer list. If they can repeat without error, they're given a longer list, etc.
they keep repeating this till they make errors; happens when there's more than 7 or 8 items
this procedure implies that working memory's capacity is between 7 or 8 items but not more than 9.
can be misleading in terms of "items"
George Miller working memory holds 7 plus-or minus 2 chunks.
chunks: hypothetical storage unit in working memory.
working memory holds 7 plus-or-minus 2 packages; package containment is up to the person
the chunking process does have a cost attached, because some effort is required to "repackage" the materials
and with some amount of attention spent in this way, less attention is available for rehearsing these items.
chunking is one complication in our measurement of working memory's capacity
*span test only counts the number of "slots" in working memory. It doesn't really measure what the working memory's
capacity does with these slots.
The Active Nature of Working Memory
The language of the modal model seems to imply that working memory is something like a box in which info is stored (but
the "work" in working memory often involves analysis of materials to be remembered, and finding connections
between these materials and other info already in storage.
the notion of a loading platform may be misleading, as is the notion of mechanical transfer between one position and
working memory is like the office of a busy librarian who is energetically categorizing, and cross-referencing new
another way to measure working memory is reading span/operation span.
operation span: measures the efficiency of working memory when it is "working"
e.g. measuring reading span, participants are asked to read aloud a series of sentences and recall the final
words in the sentences. They add a sentence each time and recall until it limits their performance to retrieve.
this task involves:
o storing some materials (ending words)
o simultaneously working with other materials (full sentences)
performance in this test is likely to reflect the efficiency with which working memory will operate in more
moving from one task to the next is exactly what working memory must do in its functioning day-to-day life.
there are strong positive correlations between WMC and other measures such as verbal SAT, tests of reasoning, etc.
people with a larger WMC seem less likely to have their minds wander, and so are more likely to keep their thoughts "on
task", in comparison to people with smaller WMC.
these findings show that the working memory is not a passive storage box but instead a highly active info processor.
The Working-Memory System
The working memory is a system built out of several components:
a) central executive: a multi-purpose processor capable of running different operations on many different types
o it does the real "work" in working memory
o if one has to plan a response or make a decision, these steps require the executive
o many tasks place a different, less complicated demand on working memory - "information holder",
temporary resting spot for info that isn't needed but will soon be.
info holder is just mere maintenance; can be provided by its "helpers" b) helpers: serve as strong information you will need soon but don't need right now. This leaves the executive
free to work on more difficult matters. It has two main helpers:
1. visuospatial buffer: used for storing visual materials (e.g. mental images)
2. articulatory rehearsal loop: used for storing verbal material.
subvocal speech "the inner voice": items are rehearsed here to load the buffer
phonological buffer "the inner ear": mechanisms for reading the buffer
The Central Executive
certain processes are needed to control the sequence of our thoughts and actions;
these processes serve to select and launch specific responses;
they are needed for planning and the setting of goals, and for the steps needed to resist falling into habit or routine.
these processes can only work on one task at a time, limiting people's ability to divide their attention
the function of working memory is to control our moment-by-moment awareness as we work on a task:
these mental resources, needed for control of the mind's processes, are the central executive
central executive is just the name we give for the use of these cognitive resources
we know that in many sites of prefrontal cortex are active when people are engaged in tasks that make heavy use of
patients with frontal lesions show a pattern of goal neglect or perseveration
goal neglect: relying on habitual responses even if those responses won't move them toward their assigned
goal in a particular task.
perseveration: involves a strong tendency to produce same response over and over again, even when it's
plain that the task requires a change in response.
o e.g. patients are asked to sort a deck of cards into two piles
o patients sort cards according to color then later switch strategie