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Nature of long term memory
Capacity of LTM
We have to assume that the capacity of LTM is unlimited. This is because any
failure to remember information could be due to 2 reasons:
1. The LTM store is full so the new information can't be remembered
2. The information is in the store but it can't be accessed.
Duration- Bahrick et al 1975
To investigate the existence of very long term memory (VLTM) using real life
400 participants (aged 17 to 74) were asked to remember names of classmates
from high school (free recall task). Also, they were showed photos and lists of
names, some of which were ex-school friends. They had to identify ex-school
friends (recognition task).
Those who'd left high school within the previous 15 years recalled 90% of
faces and names in the recognition task.
Those who left 48 years ago recalled 80% of names and 70% of faces.
Free recall of names was comparatively poor.
Recognition is easier than free recall- suggests we process a lot of
information in our LTM, but we need clues or cues to access it.
People do possess (VLTM) although these decline over time.
- Experimental support- these findings support those of Shepard (1967),
who demonstrated peoples LTM for adverts.
- High ecological validity- involved people's real life memories, not
nonsense trigrams in a lab experiment. So finding could be generalised to
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Study lacked important controls- participants may have been in contact
with friends or looked at the yearbook since they left school.
- Recognition not recall- study found the existence of VLTM with
recognition, not recall. Also, they were only testing one form of LTM (visual
- Internal validity people are repeatedly asked to remember names and
Alan Buddeley studied the encoding method used in LTM.…read more