Models of Memory

Models of memory, evaluation of models + analysis of STM and LTM

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Key Features of the Multi Store Model of Memory

  • Designed by Atkinson + Shiffrin (1968)
  • Memory is a flow of information through a system.
  • External stimuli from the environment enters the sensory memory where they can be registered for a brief time before decaying.
  • Information can be easily lost through decay or displacement. 
  • If information is rehearsed then it is passed onto the LTM.
  • The most important process according to the Multi Store Model of Memory is rehearsal which allows info to be recyled in the STM and passed onto the LTM.
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Strengths + Support of Multi Store Model

  • Distinguishes between STM and LTM stores in terms of capacity, duration and encoding.
  • Case studies of people with brain damage like Clive Wearing supports the distinction between the STM and LTM.
  • Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) investigated the primacy and rencency effect. They discovered that the words first and last in a list of words were remembered better.
  • The words at the beginning of the list were remembered because they were already stored in the LTM.
  • The word at the end of the list were remembered because they were still in the STM.
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Weaknesses + Limitations of Multi Store Model

  • Too simplistic and inflexible to explain the whole memory system, brain damaged patients have proved there are separate stores within the STM & LTM.
  • It places emphasis on the amount of information that can be processed rather than its nature. Some things are simply easier to remember than others, maybe because they are more interesting or funny or distinctive. The Multi Store Model does not account for this.
  • It does not explain the processes involved in enough detail.
  • In some circumstances the information from the LTM must flow backwards through the system to the re-coding stage. This goes against what Atkinson & Shiffrin say as they suggested that the info flows in one direction in an order.
  • In real life people do not always have to rehearse info to remember it and it is still stored in the LTM. E.g. smells.
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Short Term Memory

  • Duration; 18-30 seconds before forgotten. (Peterson + Peterson) 
  • Encoding; visual + echoic (Conrad)
  • Capacity; between 5 and 9 items. 7 plus/minus 2 (Millers magic number 7)
  • Relies on the sounds of words rather than their meaning.
  • Acoustically similar words are harder to remember. (Conrad) 
  • Chunking improves chances of remembering things (Miller)
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Long Term Memory

  • Duration; lasts up to a lifetime if undamaged.
  • Encoding; semantic (Baddley)
  • Capacity; unlimited if undamaged.
  • Similar meaning words are confused easily (Baddley)
  • Clive Wearing suggests there is not 1 single store as he can remember some things but not others.
  • Childhood amnesia; children cannot hold down memories, which is why we cannot remember things from our childhood.


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Sensory Memory

  • Duration; less than 2 seconds. (Sperling)
  • Encoding; iconic, echoic and haptic.
  • Capacity; 4, or up to 10.
  • SM holds unprocessed information.
  • External stimuli from the environment enters the sensory memory.
  • Separate stores within the SM; echoic - auditory. Iconic - visual. Haptic - touch.
  • Sperling showed pts a grid of letters for less than a second, 4 letters were averagely remembered, concludes info decays in 2 seconds.
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Key Features of The Working Memory Model

  • Designed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974)
  • STM is complex and a flexible system which is assisted by slave systems.
  • The Working Memory Model allows our memory to work on different tasks at the same time.
  • Recently (2000) Baddeley added an additional component to the Working Memory Model, The Episodic Buffer.
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Central Executive

  • Most important part, involved in problem solving and decision making.
  • Controls attention and plans + synthesizes information for slave systems + LTM.
  • It is flexible and can process information from any system.
  • Limited storage capacity and can only attend to a limited number of things at one time.
  • Controls the slave systems.
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Phonological Loop

  • Stores limited amounts of speech based sounds.
  • The phonological store (inner ear) allows acoustically coded items to be stored for a brief period.
  • The Articulatory Loop (inner voice) allows sub vocal repetition of the items stored in the phonological store.
  • The repetition of the items stored in the phonological store can be prevented by articulatory suppression.
  • Articulatory suppression involves repeating another word aloud that has nothing to do with what is trying to be remembered. 
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Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad

  • Stores visual and spatial info and thought as an inner eye.
  • Responsible for setting up and manipulating mental images.
  • It had limited capacity.
  • However, it is possible to repeat numbers in your head (phonological loop) at the same time as imagining a mental image (visuo-spatial sketchpad)
  • Imagining the layout of your house uses the visuo-spatial sketchpad.
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Episodic Buffer

  • Baddeley added this in 2000.
  • Integrates and manipulates material in the working memory.
  • It has limited capacity and depends on executive processing.
  • Capable of binding info together from different sources into chunks.
  • The episodic buffer allows us to go beyond what is already in the LTM and combine it in different ways when working memory needs it.
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Strengths + Support for Working Memory Model

  • It effectively explains our ability to carry out tasks; we store info briefly and at the same time actively process it.
  • Baddeley et al (1975) investigated the word-length effect and found that if pts had to repeat irrelevant sounds then it suggests that articulatory suppression takes over the phonological loop + the central executive takes over the recall task.
  • Baddeley et al (1973) pts tracked a moving light and imagined a letter. They struggled to do both at the same time but managed to track the moving light + do a verbal task. This suggests that the tracking and letter tasks were competing for space in the visuo-spatial sketchpad whereas the tracking and verbal tasks were using different slave systems.


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Weaknesses + Limitations for Working Memory Model

  • We know little about the central executive which is said to be the most important component of the model.
  • Richardson (1984) argues that the terminology is vague and it doesn't show any real conclusions about the slave systems and how they work.
  • It has just been assumed that the central executive takes over tasks when other slave systems cannot carry them out, when this may not definitely be the case.
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Good info and concise! Nice work :) 


Thank you! This was so helpful, I've really developed my understanding of the two models :-)

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