AQA GCSE psychology - memory

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  • Created by: Taniya
  • Created on: 17-05-13 17:59

Flow of information in memory (part 1)

Our memory is a bit like a video or DVD recorder. Basically there are three things (known as process) that we need to do: put information in, keep it there until we need it, and then get it back. Putting information there is called encoding. to do this information is changed to a language or code that the brain will understand. Keeping it there until we need it is called storage. We can store vast amounts of information, some of it for a lifetime. However, for this process to work properly, we need to be able to find information when we read it. Bringing the information back is called retrieval.

Key Terms:

Encoding: changing information so that it can be stored.

Storage: holding information in the memory system.

Retrieval: recovering information from storage

The flow chart of information in memory

Encoding ( Storage ( Retrieval

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Flow of information in memory (part 2)

One more explanation says that it has more than one store. This is called the multi-store explanation. Information arrives at our senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell). This is briefly held in a part of our memory known as the  sensory store. But it only stays there for a short period of time and it will quickly fade away if we don't do something with it. Experiments have shown that the sort-term store has a small capacity. it can hold approximately seven items or 'chunks' of information. New information pushes old information out. there is a third memory store known as the long-term store. Experiments have shown that this store has very large capacity and information can stay there indefinitely.

key terms:

Multi-store: the idea that information passes through a series of memory stores

Sensory store: holds information received from the senses for a short period of time

Short-term store: holds approximately seven chunks of information for a limited period of time

Long-term store: holds a vast amount of information for a very long period if time 

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Multi-store explanation of memory

Memory store  -  Duration  -  Capacity

Sensory store  -  Less than one second  -  Very limited

Short-term  -  Less than one minute  -  Approximately seven chunks of information

Long-term  -  Up to a lifetime  -  Unlimited

Duration and capacity of each memory store

When you want to learn a list of words, it starts as a visual image in the sensory store. Then you will probably try saying them to yourself (rehearsal) as they move to the short-term store. If you are successful, the words will move to the long term store and you will be able to recall them later.

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Aim: To provide evidence to support the multi-store explanation of memory

Method: Participants had to learn a list of words presented one at a time, for two seconds per word to remember and then asked them to recall them in any order

Results: the words at the end of the list were the first recalled first (known recency effect). words from the beginning of the list were also recalled quite well (known as the primary effect), but the middle words were not recalled well at all.

Conclusion: Murdock concluded that this provides for separate short-term and long-term

Evaluation:  positive - Evidence for the model  Negative - low ecological validity (not asked to do this everyday) therefore can't generalise results. 

Applications: Revision- Use rehearsal in order for the information to transfer form short-term memory to long-term memory

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Reconstructive memory

Bartlett (1932) thought that memory was not just a stored copy of facts. He said we change our memories to fit in with what we already know, even though we think we are remembering what exactly happened. this is known as as reconstructive memory.

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Bartlett (1932)

Aim: To see if people, when given something unfamiliar to remember, would alter the information

Method: Participants were given story to read 'War of the Ghosts', which was a native American legend. Later they were asked to recall the story as accurately as possible. this retelling was repeated several times during the the weeks following.

Results: the participants found it difficult to recall the bit about the ghosts and the spirits and changed bits of the story so it made more sense to them. Each time the retold the story the changed some more.

Conclusion: Bartlett concluded that our memory is influenced by our own beliefs

Evaluation: Negative - the unfamiliar story can't be generalised. Positive - recalling something from everyday life

Applications: Eye Witness Testimony 

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levels of processing

According to Craik and Lockhart (1972), it is a way you think about information (or process it) that is important if you want to recall it later. We can think about information, such as word, at different level. At a shallow level known as structural processing, we look at visual features of words, such as weather they are written in uper-case or lower-case. At a middle level, known as phonetic processing, we think about the sound of the words. At a deeper level, known as semantic processing, we think about the meanings of words.

key terms

Structural procesing: thinking about the physical appearance of words to be learnt.

Phonetic procedding: thinking about the meaning of the words. This deffinition is wrong and is in the process of being edited. Thank you

Semantic processing: thinking about the meaning of words to be learnt.

Levels of processing: the depth at  which information id thought about when trying to lear it.

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Craik and Lockhart

Aim: To see if the type of question asked about words will have an effect on the number of words recalled.

Method: Participants were presented with a list of words, one at a time, one at a time, and  asked questions about each word, to which they had to answer 'yes' or 'no'. Some questions required structural processing of the words; others required phonetic and the remainder required semantic processing. They were then given a longer list of words and asked to identify the they had questions about.

Results: Participants identified 7 per cent of the words hat required semantic processing, 35 per cent of the words that required phonetic processing and 15 per cent of the words that required structural processing.

Conclusion: the more deeply information is processed, the more likely it is to be remembered.

Evaluation: Negative - Low Ecological Validity Negative - can't generalise results 

Applications: Study skills = better recall

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New things that we learn can cause problems when we try to to recall information that we learned before. This is known as retroactive interference.

Key terms:

Interference: things that we have learnt that make it difficult to recall other information that we have learnt.

Retroactive interference: when information we have recently learnt hinders our ability to recall information we have learnt previously.

Proactive interference: when information we have already learnt hinders our ability to recall new information.

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Underwood and postman (1960)

Aim: To see if new information interferes with previous learning.

Method: Participants were divided into two groups, they were asked to learn word pairs. Group A learnt list 1 and 2 and Group 2 learnt list 1. Then both groups asked to recall list 1.

Results: Group B's recall of the first list was more accurate.

Conclusion: New learning will cause people to recall previously learned information less accurately

Evaluation:  positive  well controlled, can see cause and effect. Negative artificial study, therefore low ecological validity and can't generalise findings.

Applications:  Learning Languages.

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Have you ever gone to another room for something and then, when you get there, forgot why you were there? Then, when you returned to where you started from, did you remember why you went? This happens to a lot of  people. why do you think it happens?

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Godden and Baddley (1975)

Aim: See the effect on Context on a persons memory.

Method: Participants were deep-sea divers. They were didived into four groups. All the groups were givien a list of words to remember. Group 1 - Learnt words underwater and asked to recall them underwater. Group 2 - Learnt words underwater and asked to recall them on shore. Group 3 -Learnt words on shore and asked to recall them on shore. 4. Learnt words on shore and asked to recall underwater. 

Results: Group 1 and 3 recalled 40 percent more words than Group 2 and 4.

Evaluation: Negative artificial study, therefore has a low ecological validity and can't generalise results Positive well controlled can see cause and effect

Applications: Revision- try to revise in similar conditions to the exam.

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Brain damage and forgeting

Some people suffer from brain damage and are then unable to learn new information. This is known as anterograde amnesia.

Key terms:

Context: the general setting or environment in which activities happen.

Anterograde amnesia: being unable to learn new information after suffering brain damage.

Hippocampus: a brain structure that is crucial for memory.

Retrograde amnesia: a loss of memory for events that happened before brain damage occurred.

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Case Studies

Milner et al. (1957)

A patient suffering from epilepsy underwent an operation in which two-thirds of his hippocampus was removed. since the operation  he was unable to learn new information. this shows that the hippocampus is crucial for recording new memories.

other people have suffered brain damage that has left them unable to recall anything that happened before the damage occurred. this is known as retrograde amnesia.

Russell and Nathen (1946)

 22-year-old patient had fallen from his motorcycle, banged his head and suffered severe concussion. Although X-rays showed no fracture to the skull, he could not recall any events that had happened two years prior to the accident.

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Eyewitness testimonies

Key terms:

Reliability: in the context of eyewitness testimony, the extent to which it can be regarded as accurate.

Leading questions: a question that hints that a particular type of answer is required.

Cognitive interview: a method of questioning witnesses that involves reciting the context of an event

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Loftus and Palmer (1974)

Aim: To test the effect of leading questions on the accuracy of recall.

Method: Participants were shown films of car acidents. Some were asked 'How fast was the car going when it hit the other car?' Others were asked 'How fast was the car going when it smashed the other car?'

Results: Those whoe heard the word 'smashed' gave a higher speed estimate than those who heard 'hit'. 

Conclusion: Leading questions will reduce the accuracy of recall. the word 'smashed led participants to belive the car was going faster. 

Evaluation: Negative P's felt no emotion, it was only a film. Positive well controlled, see cause and effect.

Application: Police should not use leading questions during interviews.

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Bruce and Young (1998)

Aim: To see if familiarity afects the accurcy of identifying faces.

Method: Psychology lectures were caught on security cameras at the enterance of a building. Participants were asked to identify the faces seen on the security camera tpe from a series of high-quality photographs.

Results: The lecturers' students made more correct identifications than other students and experianced police officers.

Conclusion: Previous familiarity helps when identifying faces.

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Geiselman et al. (1985)

Aim: To see if reinstating the context of an event will affect the accuracy of witnesses' accounts.

Methods: Participants were shown a police training film of a violent crime. two days later they were interviewed about what they had seen. For half of the participants, the context of the event was recreated during the interview For the other half of the participants, standard police interview techniques were used.

Results: The participants who had the context recreated recalled more accurate facts about the violent crime than other participants.

Conclusion: Recreating context during interviews will increase the accuracy of recall. This method is known as cognitive interview.

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Aim: To see if stereotypes can affect memory.

Method: Participants were shown a video of a man and a man eating in a restaurant. Half the participants were told that the woman was a waitress. The other participants were told she was a librarian. Later, all the participants were asked to describe the woman's behaviour and personality.

Results: The two groups of participants gave entirely different descriptions, which matched the  stereotypes of the waitress or a librarian.

Conclusion: Stereotypes will reduce the accuracy of accounts of people.

Key terms:

Stereotypes: An oversimplified, generalised set of ideas that we have about others, for example, secondary head teachers are strict, intimidating, scary and male.

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A good explanation for gcse psychology memory here.

Covers the following for students and teachers:

  • Processes of encoding, storage and retrieval
  • The multi-store memory model explanation of memory
  • The reconstructive explanation of memory
  • The levels of process explanation of memory
  • Interference explanation and studies of forgetting
  • Context explanations of forgetting
  • Brain damage explanation and studies of forgetting
  • Eyewitness testimony


Hi i'm the author of these cards, so if anything needs improving please comment and i will get back.:)



These cards are great! Very colourful and exceptionally well thought out!



Thank you so much

lyd seabourne


These notes have really helped me out for revising my GCSE's. Thank you!



Thanks these really helped me catch up with psychology, recommended these to the rest of my class! really thankful!



How can i save these to my usb these are really good!!



These are very useful

Tom the destroyer






luke mortimore123


i thought the core study was terry 2005?



these are really good however would you be able to create a card about how memory is encoded and stored

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