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Later studies have confirmed Sperling's findings.
Items remain in sensory memory for a very brief period of time probably less than 2
seconds (or even less than that in iconic store).
Information in sensory memory is in a relatively unprocessed form.
Information is passively registered in sensory memory in other words, we cannot really
control what enters our sensory memory. We then actively select certain items for
transmission to short-term memory by paying attention to them. Only a tiny fraction of the
items are passed on the rest are lost.
There are separate memory stores for the different senses, e.g. vision, hearing and touch.
Short-term and long-term memory
The central feature of Atkinson and Shriffin's model is the distinction between short-term memory
(STM) and long-term memory (LTM). They believed that two stores were fundamentally different in
How long they last (duration)
How much information they can store (capacity)
How they store information (coding)
How information is lost (forgetting).
CAPACITY DURATION ENCODING FORGETTING
STM Very limited Very limited Mainly acoustic Mainly
(approx 7 items) (by sound) displacement
LTM Unlimited Unlimited (up to a Mainly semantic Mainly
Displacement: a type of forgetting where the items currently in the limited capacity STM are pushed
out before being transferred to LTM to make room for incoming items.
Interference: a type of forgetting where information is stored in LTM is confused with similar
Free recall: a way of testing memory where participants can recall items from a list in any order.
A technique used to investigate STM and LTM is to ask P's to study long lists of words and then recall
as many as possible in any order (free recall).
The researcher then plots on a graph the relationship between where the word appeared on the
original list and the likelihood of recalling the word. Psychologists using this technique have found
free recall of a list of unrelated words produces a characteristic serial position curve. This means that
words presented at the end of the list are recalled best, followed by reasonable recall of words
presented at the beginning of the list. Words in the middle of the list have the lowest recall rate.
Researchers have interpreted these findings in terms of the distinction between STM and LTM. They
reasoned that people can remember the last few words of the list (the recency effect) b/c the
words are still circulating in the STM and can be easily retrieved. Words at the beginning of the list
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LTM and can be retrieved at the time of
recall (the primacy effect). Words in the middle (asymptote) are poorly recalled b/c they have had
little time for rehearsal and have been displaced by later items in the list.
H/e, the existence of the serial position curve on its own does not prove that there is a distinction
between STM and LTM.…read more