memory revision

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  • Created on: 14-05-11 12:18
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Psychology Revision ­ Memory
Definitions within Memory
The mental process used to encode, store and retrieve information.
Encoding involves changing the information presented into a different form. Since words or other items in the
short term store are rehearsed or repeated, we might assume that they are encoded in terms of their sound
(acoustic coding). In contrast, the information we have stored in the long term memory nearly always seems
to be stored in terms of its meaning (semantic coding).
Encoding takes many different forms visual, auditory, semantic, taste and smell.
The short term store has very limited capacity, about 7 items. In contrast the capacity of the long term memory
is assumed to be so large that it cannot be filled, it is said to have unlimited capacity and lasts potentially
Information lasts longer in the long term store than in the short term store,. There is evidence that in the short
term store, if not rehearsed, information will disappear within about 18 ­ 20 seconds and in contrast there is
evidence that elderly people can recognise the names of fellow students from 48 years previously.
As a result of encoding, the information is stored in the memory system it can remain stored for a very long
time maybe a entire lifetime.
Recovering information from the memory system. Can be known as recall or remembering.
Short term Memory
Short term Memory ­ A temporary place for storing information. Short term memory has a very limited capacity
and short duration, unless the information within it is maintained through rehearsal.
Capacity in STM (Jacobs):
To investigate how much information can be held in short term memory.
To do this, Jacob's needed an accurate measure of STM capacity ­ he devised a technique called the serial
digit span
His research was the first systematic study of STM
This was a laboratory study using the digit span technique
P's were presented with a sequence of letters or digits
This was followed by a serial recall (repeating back the letters or digits in the same order they were
The pace of the item presentation was controlled to half second intervals through a metronome
Initially, the sequence was 3 items ­ it was then increased by a single item until the participant consistently
failed to reproduce the sequence correctly
This was repeated over a number of trials to establish the participants' digit span.
The longest sequence length that was recalled correctly on at least 50% of the trials was taken to be the P's
STM digit span
Jacobs found that the average STM span (number of items recalled) was between 5 and 9 items
Digits were recalled better (9.3 items) than letter (7.3 items)
Individual differences were found, explaining the range of 59
STM span increased with age ­ in one sample he found an 6.6 average for 8 year old children compared to
8.6 for 19 year olds
The findings show that STM has a limited storage capacity of between 5 and 9 items
The capacity of STM is not determined much by the nature of the information to be learned but by the size of
the STM span, which is fairly constant across individuals of a given age
Individual differences of STM span increasing with age may be due to increasing brain capacity or improved
memory techniques, such as chunking
+ The study has great historical importance because it represents the first systematic attempt to assess the
capacity of STM
The research lacks mundane realism as the digitspan task is not representative of everyday memory
demands ­ the artificiality of the task may have made the results biased. Letters and numbers are not very
meaningful, so may not be remembered as well as meaningful information.
This means that the capacity of STM may be greater for everyday memory.
Jacobs' findings cannot be generalised to real life memory ­ so it may have low ecological validity
However, it could be argued that using more meaningful information would produce a less pure measure of
STM capacity, because participants could make use of LTM to improve performance

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The findings have been usefully applied to improve memory (phone numbers etc). Memory improvement
techniques are based on the findings that digit span cannot be increased, but the size of the bits of
information can be ­ this is what happens in chunking.
Encoding in STM (Conrad)
To test the hypothesis that short term memory encodes information acoustically
Conrad (1964) compared performance with acoustically and visually presented data.
Presented p's with 6 letters at a time, for 0.…read more

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90% accuracy in face and name recognition (even with participants that had left high school 34 years ago)
After 48 years of leaving this accuracy of name recognition declined to 80% and for face recognition it was
Free recall was considerable less accurate 60% accurate after 15 years and only 30% accurate after 48
The findings show that classmates were rarely forgotten once participants were given recognition clues.
Thus the aim of very long term memory was supported.…read more

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BUT we cannot control what goes on in peoples heads so it is impossible to know that no new information
was taken in
Also it lacks mundane realism as it is not representative of real life and only uses free recall.…read more

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Loftus and Palmer aimed to show that leading questions could distort eyewitness testimony accounts via the
cues provided in the question.
To test their hypothesis, Loftus and Palmer asked people to estimate the speed of motor vehicles using
different forms of questions after they observed a car accident. The estimation of vehicle speed is something
people are generally quite bad at, so they may be more open to suggestion by leading questions.…read more

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A final factor that may affect the reliability of eyewitness testimony is weapon focus. This is where the
eyewitness may not properly see the criminal as they are focused on the weapon rather than their face. This
will make it difficult to identify them.…read more



This colourful document nicely summarises all you need to know about memory, thanks Jess! 


amazing thank you

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