AQA Psychology Topic 1

Explanations of Memory


Terms Used in Memory

These include:

Encoding -

Putting information into a form that you understand. Like inputting data into a computer, e.g. typing in text or downloading music.

Storage -

Keeping the information in the brain. Like having a system of folders.

Retrieval -

Remembering the information when needed. Like going to the relevant folder on your comupter when you want to find something. If your system is unorganized you may have trouble finding information!

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Facts About Memory

Some facts you may find useful/interesting:

Short-term memory is the capacity for holding a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time

A commonly cited capacity is 7 ± 2 elements. In contrast, long-term memory indefinitely stores a seemingly unlimited amount of information.

Shallow processing leads to a fragile memory trace that is susceptible to rapid decay. On the other hand, deep processing results in a more durable memory trace. This theory contradicts the multi-store Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model in its representation of memory strength as continuously variable.

Primacy Effect: This is the tendency for the first items presented in a series to be remembered better or more easily, or for them to be more influential than those presented later in the series.

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The Reconstructive Memory and Barlett's Study

Procedure: Ps presented with a story The War of the Ghosts. Ps were asked to recall the story repeatedly at different time intervals: minutes, days, months and years.

Findings: The recalled story became shorter, more coherent, more conventional, and more cliched.

Conclusion: Memory is reconstructive, and people try to make memories fit in with whatever personal schema they have.

Strength: One of the first experiments to study complex memories; provides evidence for reconstructive memory and stimulated much further research

Weakness 1: Results may be due to demand characteristics

Weakness 2: Folk tale is written in an unusual style, and so is not representative of everyday memory tasks.

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The Multi-Store Memory

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Below is a study by Sperling (1960) into sensory m

Aim To investigate the capacity of iconic memory. Method A three by four grid of numbers was flashed for 0.05 seconds. Followed by a high, medium or low pitched tone to indicate which row was to be recalled. Results On average, the participants were able to recall 80% of the letters on the cued row. Conclusions Since the participants didn't know which row was going to be called beforehand but still managed to recall it well, you can assume that at one time all of the information was held in the sensory memory. But it decayed very rapidly. Evaluation The work by Sperling is the basis of the view that sensory memory stores are large but decay very rapidly. lasting 250 to 500 milliseconds.

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Below are the details of a study into short term m

Aim Find out what the duration of STM is Method Participants were shown a trigram (three letters e.g. FGL) and asked to recall it after varying times.

In between seeing the trigram and recalling it, the participant did a distraction task to prevent them from rehearsing it and moving it to long term memory. This involved counting backwards in threes. Results 80% recall after only 3 seconds
The recall reduced with time until only 10% after 18 seconds. Conclusion If rehearsal is prevented then the information vanishes from STM after only a few seconds. Evaluation Poor ecological validity since trigrams are an artificial thing to remember.

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On the plus points this theory has very practical applications, as you can use the levels of processing to help you remember things. And also, levels of processing looks at the effects of learning on memory: something not done previously.

However, there are also negatives. When studies have been carried out showing that different types of processing leave better memory traces: how can they tell which is actually being used? Even if the participant is supposed to be using acoustic processing, what is to prevent semantic processing also taking place.

Also, there is the problem of cause and effect; is it the amount of effort being put into processing or time taken to process that is causing the effect; rather than anything else?

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