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Chapter 09 - Memory

  • Memory: persistence of learning over time via the storage and retrieval of info
  • Flashbulb memory: a clear memory of an emotionally significant moment or event; San Francisco residence recalling 1989 Earthquake
  • Human memory like a computer
1. Get info into our brain –encoding: processing of info into memory system
2. Retain info –storage: retention of encoded info over time
3. Get it back later –retrieval: process of getting into out of memory storage
  • Humans store vast amounts of info in long-term memory: relatively permanent and limitless storehouse of the memory system
  • Short-term memory: activated memory that holds few items briefly; phone number just dial

Encoding: Getting Information In

  • Automatic processing: unconscious encoding of incidental info; occurs with little or no effort, without our awareness, and without interfering with our thinking of other things; space, time, frequency, well-learned info
  • Effortful processing: encoding that requires attention and conscious effort; memorizing these notes for the AP Psychology exam
  • After practice, effort processing becomes more automatic; reading from right to left for students of Hebrew
  • Can boost memory through rehearsal: conscious repetition of info, either to maintain it in consciousness or to encode it for storage
  • Next-in-line effect: when people go around circle saying names/words, poorest memories are for name/word person before them said
  • Info received before sleep is hardly ever remembered are consciousness fade before processing able
  • Retain info better when rehearsal distributed over time –phenomenon called spacing effect: tendency for distributed study or practice to yield better long-term retention than is achieved through cramming
  • When given a list of items and ask to recall, people often demonstrate serial position effect: tendency to recall best the last and first items in a list
  • Rehearsal will not encode all info equally well because processing of info is in 3 ways
  1. Semantic encoding: encoding of meaning, including the meaning of words
  2. Acoustic encoding: encoding of sound, especially the sound of words
  3. Visual encoding: encoding of picture images
  • Fergus Craik and Endel Tulving flashed a word to people, asking question that required processing either visually, acoustically, or semantically; semantic encoding was found to yield much better memory
  • Imagery: mental pictures; powerful aid to effortful processing, especially when combined with semantic encoding;
  • can easily picture where we were yesterday, where we sat, and what we wore
  • Mnemonic: memory aids, especially those techniques that use vivid imagery and organizational devices
  • Chunking: organizing items into familiar, manageable units; often occurs automatically
  • Able remember info best when able to organize it into personal meaningful arrangements

Forgetting as Encoding Failure

  • Failure to encode info –never entered memory system
  • Much of what we sense, we never notice
  • Raymond Nickerson and Marilyn Adams discover most people cannot pick the real American penny from different ones; (See pg. 280)

Storage: Retaining Information

  • Sensory memory: immediate, initial recording of sensory info in memory system
  • we have short temporary photographic memory called iconic memory: momentary sensory memory of visual stimuli; photographic/picture-image memory lasting no more than a few tenths of a sec; visual = eye, which sounds like “I” in iconic also fleeting memory for auditory sensory images called echoic memory: momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli; if attention is elsewhere, sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 or 4 sec; auditory = ear, which starts with “e” like echoic
  • Short-Term Memory
  • without active processing, short-term memories have limited life
  • short-term memory limited in capacity –about 7 chunks of info; at any given moment, can consciously process only very limited amount of info
  • Long-Term Memory
  • capacity for storing long-term memories is practically limitless
  • though forgetting occurs as new experiences interfere with retrieval and as physical memory trace gradually decays
  • Karl Lashley removed pieces of rat’s cortex as it ran through maze; found that no matter what part removed, partial memory of solving maze stayed; concluded memories don’t reside in single specific spot
  • Psychologists then focus on neurons
  • Long-term potential (LTP): increase in a synapse’s firing potential after brief, rapid stimulation; believed to be neural basis for learning and memory
  • After long-term potential occurs, passing electric current through brain won’t disrupt old memories, but wipe up recent experiences; football player with blow to head won’t recall name of play before the blow
  • Drugs that block neurotransmitters also disrupt info storage; drunk people hardly remembers previous evening
  • Stimulating hormones affect memory as more glucose available to fuel brain activity, indicating important event –
  • sears events onto brain; remembering first kiss, earthquake
  • Amnesia: loss of memory
  • Found that people who don’t have memories can still learn, indicating 2 memory systems operating in order
  • Implicit memory: retention without conscious recollection (of skills and dispositions); how to do something
  • Explicit memory: memory of facts and experiences that one can consciously know and “declare”; remember it was done before
  • Through scans, found that Hippocampus, neural center located in limbic system, helps process explicit memories for storage
  • Damage to left side of hippocampus produce difficulty in remembering verbal info, but no trouble recalling visual designs and locations
  • Damage to right side produce difficulty in remembering visual designs and locations, but no trouble recalling verbal info
  • When hippocampus removed from monkeys, lose recent memories, but old memories intact, suggesting hippocampus not permanent storage
  • Long-term memories scattered across various parts of frontal and temporal lobes

Retrieval: Getting Information Out

  • Recall: measure of memory in which the person must retrieve information learned earlier; fill-in-the-blank test
  • Once learned and forgotten, relearning something becomes quicker than when originally first learned
  • Recognition: measure of memory in which the person need only identify items previously learned; multiple-choice test
  • Relearning: memory measure that assesses the amount of time saved when relearning previously learned info
  • Through tests on recognition and relearning, found one remember more than can recall
  • To retrieve specific memory, need to identify one of the strands that leads to it, process called priming: activation, often unconsciously, of particular associations in memory
  • Retrieval cues (reminders of info) such as photographs, often prime one’s memories for earlier experiences
  • Best retrieval cues comes from associations formed at time when one encodes memory
  • By being in similar context (surrounding), can cause flood of retrieval cues and memories
  • Being in similar context as before, may trigger experience déjà vu: eerie sense that “I’ve experienced this before.” Cues from current situation may subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience
  • Things we learn in one state (joyful, sad, drunk, sober, etc) are more easily recalled when in same state –phenomenon called state-dependent memory
  • Moods also associated with memory; easily recall memory when mood of that incident same as present
  • Mood-congruent memory: tendency to recall experiences that are consistent with one’s current good or bad mood

Forgetting as Retrieval Failure

  • Learning some items may interfere with retrieving others
  • Proactive interference (forward-acting): disruptive effect of prior learning on the recall of new info; old combination lock numbers may interfere with recalling of new numbers; “pro”(after = new) interference = interference on new info
  • Retroactive interference (backward-acting): disruptive effect of new learning on the recall of old info; teachers who just learn students’ names from present class have trouble recalling previous class’ students’ names; retro (before = old) interference = interference on old info
  • Repression: in psychoanalytic theory, the basic defence mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories from consciousness
  • Increasing memory researchers think repression occurs rarely

Memory Construction

  • Misinformation effect: incorporating misleading info into one’s memory of an event; miscalling a stop sign when asked about car crash
  • Source amnesia: attributing to the wrong source an event that we experienced, heard about, read about, or imagined

Critical Thinking ] Neuroscience ] Developing Child ] Adolescence ] Sensation ] Perseption ] Consciousness ] Learning ] [ Memory ] Thinking ] Inteligence ] Motivation ] Emotion ] Personality ] Psych Disorders ] Therapy ] Stress ] Social Psych ] Statistics ] Critical Thinking ]


Myers, David G., Psychology Fifth Edition. Worth Publishers, Inc. New York, NY ©1998


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