Cognitive Approach

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  • Created on: 11-05-16 16:17


ability to encode, store and eventually retreive information 

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modifying the information into codes that can be mentally represented by memory systems; transforming sensory information into acoustic, iconic and semantic information 

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the maintenance of information over time. depends on the capacity and rehearsal helps 

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process of recovering information from memory and returning it to consciousness

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Types of LTM

  • episodic- autobiografical  eg. special events
  • semantic- general knowledge  eg. current year
  • procedural- knowing how to.. it is rarely lost because it if engraved into motor cortex
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STM Duration


procedure- participants were presented with 'trigrams'- nonsense syllables in sets of 3's and asked to recall after a delay of 3,6,9,12,18 seconds 

results- percentage of recall 3 sec-80% and 18 sec- 10%

concluded- when rehearsal is prevented items of STM are lost quickly, even with small amounts of information, demonstrating STM's duration is very short. 


strengths - 1. researchers had control over the variables such as timing and presentation of trigrams which increase reliability and can be replicated easily 

2. other studies have also shown rehearsal is necessary

weaknesses- 1.demand characteristics 2. low pop validity ( american students) 3. low ecological validity (lab settings) 3. low mundane realism 

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STM Capacity

MILLER 1956 based on Jacobs study concluded


only way to expand STM is by 'chunking' information together

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STM Encoding

CONRAD 1964- experiment 

procedure: participants presented with sequences of 6 consonants 

findings: letters with similar sounds where more difficult to recall despite looking similar


strength- suppored by Baddeley 1966

weaknesses- 1- lacks mundane realism  2- other methods of encoding are also used 

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Sensory Memory

capacity- unlimited

duration- 50 milliseconds

encoding- via senses

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LTM Duration

Bahrick et al 

recall of former classmates 


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LTM Capacity


no research has been done as it is difficult to measure 

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LTM Encoding


aim: 1. to show STM is largely encoded acoustically 2. whether LTM is also encoded acoustically 3. whether LTM+STM are semantically encoded 

procedure: given 4 sets of 10 words- acoustically similar- acoustically dissimilar- semantically similar- semantically dissimilar

one group asked to recall right away while the other after a 20 min. delay

in immediate recall- more confusion acoustically similar than dissimilar, no difference is sematic in delayed recall- more confusion is semantically similar than dissimilar


strengths- 1. high internal and external reliability 2. internal validity bc lab setting 3. ethical guidelines met

weaknesses- 1. lacks pop validity (on students)  2. lacks ecological validity (lab study)

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Multi-Store Model + strengths and weak


-memory moves in linear way

-information can decay from store to store 

strengths- 1. aided new research 2. model has simplistic appeal 3. produces testable predictions

weaknesses- 1. too simplistic, doesnt explain interactions 2. cant generalize 1 patient 3. suggests a linear way but to cope with STM must use LTM eg. meaning of words 4. difference between Clive and K.F results show its more complex than suggested 

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MSM Evidence


sperling 1960- recall 12 letters and digits after a 50 ms delay


beardsley- mri showed brain activity in pre-frontal lobe during STM activity 

squire et al- activity in hippocampus when LTM is engaged 


HM- cut hippocampus due to severe epilepsy stm but no new LTM, procedural LTM was entact but episodic and semantic were damaged 

CLIVE WEARING- damaged hippocampus, STM, motor skills and procedural memory fine but no new LTM 

KF-motorbike accident, STM impaired normal LTM

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Theories of Forgetting

trace decay theory 

displacement theory 

interference theory 

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Trace Decay Theory

-learning causes a physical change in the neural network of the memory system, an active trace, if it is strengthened by rehearsal it becomes a structured trace. without rehearsal it decays. 

forgetting= disuse and natural passing of time decays trace in memory 

strengths- 1. peterson and peterson showed preventing rehearsal would cause decay

weaknesses- 1. wagh and norman concluded interference is the most likely cause 2. people remember info from years ago even though not recently recalled 3. difficult to test

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Displacement Theory

-capacity of STM is of 7 +/- items 

forgetting= STM reaches its capacity so old info is displaced by new incoming info

- may not be lost if sufficiently rehearsed so that it moves to LTM 

strengths- 1. Murdock 1962 serial position effect - recency effect when words at the end of the list are remembered bc last to enter STM and not displaced and -primacy effect at beginning of list as they have been rehearsed and moved to LTM 2. supports MSM

weaknesses- 1. glanzer and cunitz also founds factors of decay being important 2. not clear if new info is overwriting or distracting attention 3. could be due to other factors 

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Interference Theory

forgetting= occurs in LTM due to the interference between old and new memories 

retroactive interference- learning of new info interferes with older info

proactive interference- learning of old info interferes with learning of new info

strengths- 1. can be applied to revision techniques as similar topics are more likely to be forgotten 2. experimental evidence support eg. peterson and peterson 3. no doubt it plays a role 

weaknesses- 1. most supporting evidence is lab based- lowers ecological validity 2. ignores internal and external causes 3. tells little about actual process involved in forgetting 

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Working Memory Model


- Focuses on active processing and storing of LTM 

1. central executive 

2. episodic buffer

3. visuo-spatial sketchpad

4. phonological loop

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Central Executive

1. processes higher mental tasks

2. feeds info to subslave systems 

- capacity is limited

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Phonological Loop

1. takes in sound based or written information read or heard in 2 sec and converts it to phonological code 

2. sends info to phonological store 

3. feeds info to articulatory process where the verbal information fed is rehearsed and stored 

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Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad


-encodes visual info eg. what they look like 

-limited capactiy 


-manipulates visual images spatially eg. speed

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Episodic Buffer

-added in 2000 based on observations done on amnesia patients with good STM and bad LTM

1. links verbal, visual and spatial information together chronologically 

2. assumed to have links to LTM and sematic meaning 

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Evidence of WMM

1. Baddeley et al 1975- shorter the words, higher the recall. shows phonological loop holds what you can say in 2 sec. longer words cant be rehearsed bc they dont fit 

2. baddeley and hitch 1976- gave 2 tasks to perform simaltoniously, one occupying central exectuive and the other the phonological loop and since they were slower when performing the two concluded that each component has a limited capacity 

3. bunge et all 2000- fMRI to see brain activity while conducting two tasks and found that although they both occupied the same areas the dual task used more activity 

4. case study of KF since he could remember things visually suggests the phonological loop and spatial sketchpad are two different things 

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Strengths and Weaknesses of WMM

Strengths- 1. goes into detail 2. can be proven in many ways 3. clearly explains the brain ability to carry out higher mental tasks by storing them briefly whilst actively processing it 4. has more detail and supporting evidence than MSM 

weaknesses- 1. lacks evidence of sentral evexutive 2. Elsinger and Domasio argue that central executive is not a unitary component but a collection of autonomous components working together did a study on a man with brain trauma and high IQ who could complete tasks used by central executive while being interferred with, thus proving it might not be a single entity 3. seems incomplete 4. liberman vss are not seperate since blind people cant see but have great spatial awareness

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Theory of Reconstructive Memory


-used 'serial reproduction' told a Native Am. folk tale 'the war of the ghost' to one person who passed it down

findings- found they changed it as they try to remember it= distortion 1. story became shorter 1/2 words   2. story became more coherent (always a story) 3. became more conventional (only details assimilated to p's experiences or cultural background)     4. it became more cliched (any peculiarities/ individual interpretations tended to be dropped)

eval: was written in an unusual style so it was difficult for western p's to find connections

#2- redid test using 'repeated reproduction' gave them the same story and asked to recall over a period of time and found same results 

#3- presented p's with line drawings they had to reproduce nd found they gave them labels and then reproduced those labels rather than the line drawing

conclusion: interpretations play major role in remembering, human memory is 'imaginitive reconstruction', we reconstruct the past using 'schemas'

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Strengths and weaknesses of reconstructive theory

strengths- 1. ecologically valid (suggests eye witness testimony) 2. suggests memory is n active reconstructive process 3. shows how recall and memory can be influenced by social values and previous knowledge 

weaknesses- 1. Wynn and Logie 1998 asked university students to remember their first day, details were maintained which suggests that distictive events can be relatively resistant to change over time 2. hard to test validity 

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are pre-set templates or ideas about the world around us, allow us to fill gaps in memories and make the world more predictable 

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contemporary study

STEYVERS AND HEMMERS 2010 reconstruction from memory in naturalistic environments 

aim: how prior knowledge (semantic memory) was used to reconstruct memory for photographs of everyday settings (episodic recall) 

procedure: 1. did a piolet study to determine the expected object in the 5 naturalistic scenes

2. 49 p's from experimental pool shown two sets of 5 images( 1 from each scene) for either 2 or 10 seconds 3. used free recall on their own time

findings: 1. in recall of naturalistic scenes prior knowledge (semantic memory) can contribute to accurate recall in episodic memory tasks 2. espisodic memory is enhanced by using semantic memory in form of schemas 

strengths: 1. generalisable (real life scenes) 2. ecological validity (controls and lab setting) 3. focuses on episodic and semantic memory 4. implies eye witnessses are effective when recalling familiar contexts 

weaknesses: 1. not as naturalistic as possible which hinders ecological validity (lab,pics) 2. not too generalisable (does not discuss p's in detail)

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Types of Exerpiments




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Laboratory Experiment

-IV is manipulated;  DV recorded

- to find cause and effect conclusions

-artificially controlled settings

-highest level of control on variables 

stregnths: 1. good controls 2. replicable 3. cause and effect relationship can be etablished 

weaknesses: 1. might be too controlled, not valid results 2. lacks ecological validity 3. subject to experimenter effects and demand characteristics which can be confounding variables 

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Field Experiments

-IV is manipulated; DV recorded

- to find cause and effect 

- natural setting 

strengths: 1. ecologically valid 2. fairly replicable 3. internal validity 4. less likely demand characteristics 

weaknesses: 1. hard to control factors; may be less valid 2. may not be replicable 3. experimenter bias

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Natural Experiment

- no control over IV

- natural setting

strengths: 1. ecological validity 2. less demand characteristcs 3. allows in what would be condisered unethical situations 

weaknesses: 1. expensive and time consuming 2. no control over extraneous variables

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Experimental Designs

independent groups

repeated measures 

matched pairs 

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Independent Groups Design

- different people 1 condition

strengths: 1. no order effetcs, 2. demand characteristics are less likely 

weaknesses: 1. potentional error from individual differences 2. need twice as many participants 

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Repeated Measures Design

same people same conditions

strengths: 1. participant variables removed 2. fewer p's required 3. counterbalancing and randomization can minimise order effects 

weaknesses: 1. range of potential uses is smaller 2. order effects may result bc of boredom or learning 

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Matched Pairs Design

strengths: 1. helps control participant variables 2. no order effects 

weaknesses: 1. finding them is difficult and time consming 2. matched pairs on all variables are very rare 

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case studies

strengths: 1. results back each other increasing reliability 2. measurements from brain scans can be testes for reliability 3. controlled exp and careful studies increases scientific credibility 

weaknesses: 1. many variables and regions, hard to pick 1 stucture 2. small sites might not be picked up on scans 3. not generalisable 

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