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First just think of all of the things that you currently know about memory, a olt of people will put something along the lines of:

  • Loss of memory can occur when you have a bad head injury
  • Not all memories are accurate because we forget things
  • We remember by talking about things that associate with those memories

However, memory is a bit more complicated than that. These cards will explain the experiments covered in the GSCE topic. 

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How Do Memories Work?

Memories are not immediately stored inside your head.

Encoding- changing information so that it can be stored


Storage- holding information in the memory system


Retrieval- recovering information from storage

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Multi-Store Memory

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

The information that arrives at our senses is briefly held in a part of the memory called the 'sensory store'. This information can quickly fade if we don't do something with it. All five senses are used to recieve information.

Memory store                              Duration                                    Capacity

        Sensory                            Less than 1 second            Very limited

        Short-term                         Less than 1 minute            Approximately 7 chunks of information

        Long-term                         Up to a lifetime                  Unlimited

Sensory store- holds information recieved from the senses for a short period of time.

Short term store- holds approximately seven chunks of information for a limited amount of time.

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

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Murdock (1962)

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 2 seconds per word,                  and then recall the words in any order.

Results- Words at the end of the list were recalled first (known as the recency effect). Words at the              beginning of the list were also recall quite well (known as the primacy effect), but the                      words in the middle were not recalled well at all.

Conclusion- Provides evidence to support STM and LTM. Murdock claimed that the recency effect                   is evidence that the last few words were still in the STM, the primacy effect is                               evidence that the first few words flowed into the LTM.

Recency Effect- information recieved later is remembered better.

Primacy Effect- information recieved earlier is remembered better.

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Peterson and Peterson (1959)

Aim- To see if rehearsal was necessary to hold information in the STM memory store.

Method- Participants were given 3 letters to remember (i.e. GYK, MTW), but were immediately                    asked to count backward's in 3's out loud for different lengths of time. This was done to                  prevent rehearsal. Participants were then asked to recall the letters in the correct order. 

Results- Participants had forgotten virtually all the information after 18 seconds.

Conclusion- We cannot hold information in the STM store unless we rehearse it.

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Reconstructive Memory

Reconstructive Memory- altering our recollection of things so that they make more sense to us.

The only experiment for reconstructive memory is Bartlett (1932).

Bartlett said that memory was an 'Active Process'. This means that we use existing knowledge or information (schemas) to understand new information and therefore impose some meaning on it. 

Bartlett's experiment includes a story called War of the Ghosts.

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Bartlett- War of the Ghosts (Part 1)

One night two young men from Egulac went down to the river to hunt seals and while they were there it became foggy and calm. Then they heard war-cries, and they thought: "Maybe this is a war-party". They escaped to the shore, and hid behind a log. Now canoes came up, and they heard the noise of paddles, and saw one canoe coming up to them. There were five men in the canoe, and they said:

"What do you think? We wish to take you along. We are going up the river to make war on the people."

One of the young men said "I have no arrows."

"Arrows are in the canoe," they said.

"I will not go along. I might be killed. My relatives do not know where I have gone. But you," he said, turning to the other, "may go with them" 

So one of the young men went, but the other returned home.

And the warriors went up the river to a town on the other side of Kalama. 

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Bartlett- War of the Ghosts (Part 2)

The people came down to the water and began to fight, and many were killed. But presently the young man heard one of the soldiers say, "Quick, let us go home: that Indian has been hit." Now he thought: "Oh they are ghosts." He did not feel sick, but they said he had been shot.

So the canoes went back to Egulac and the young man went ashore to his house and made a fire. And he told everybody and said: "Behold I accompanied the ghosts, and we went to fight. Many of our fellows were killed, and many of those who attacked us were killed. They said I was hit, and I did not feel sick."

He told it all,a nd then he became quiet. When the sun rose he fell down. Something black came out of his mouth. His face became contorted. The people jumped up and cried. He was dead.

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Bartlett- Explanation

So what can you remember about 'War of the Ghosts'?

You might remember that:

  • There were two brothers 
  • The brothers went fishing
  • There were boats

Actually the two men weren't brothers, they actually went hunting for seals and there were canoes and not boats. You also may not have realised that arrows were included in the story.

This is because of the 'Reconstructive Memory'. This was seen in the Bartlett experiment.

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Bartlett (1932)

Aim- See if people, when given something unfamiliar to remember would alter the information.

Method- Participants were asked to read a story called 'The 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 weeks that followed.

Results- Bartlett discovered that his participants found it difficult to remember the bits of the story               concerned with spirits and changed other bits of the story so that it made more sense to               them. Each time they retold the story  they changed it some more.

Conclusion- Bartlett concluded that our memory is influenced by our own beliefs.

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Wynn and Logie (1998)- Development of Bartlett's

Aim- To see if recalling familiar stories changed in the same way that Bartlett found with                       unfamiliar stories.

Method- They asked university students to recall their first week of university. They were asked to                do this several times through out the year.

Results- The accuracy of the story remained the same through out the year no matter how many                times they were asked to recall the story.

Conclusion- Memories of familiar events won't change.

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Levels of Processing

Levels of Processing- the depth at which information is thought about when trying to learn it.

There are 3 different ways to process information:

  • Structural Processing- thinking about the appearance of the words to be learnt (SHALLOW LEVEL).
  • Phonetic Processing- thinking about the sound of words to be learnt (MIDDLE LEVEL).
  • Semantic Processing- thinking about the meaning of the words to be learnt (DEEP LEVEL).

The experiment that explored the levels of processing is Craik and Lockhart (1972).

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Craik and Lockhart (1972)

Aim- If the types of questions asked about words would affect the number of words recalled.

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

Results- 70% identified the words that required semantic processing, 35% of the phonetic                            processing and 15% of the structural processing.

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

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

The experiment for interference is Underwood and Postman (1960).

The two types of interference covered in the GCSE are:

  • Proactive Interference- where the information that we already know causes problems when we try to take in new information (old info affecting new info)
  • Retroactive Interference- where information we learn causes problems when we try to recall old information (new info affecting old info)
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Underwood and Postman (1960)

Aim- To see if new learning interferes with previous learning.

Method- Participants were divided into two groups:

  • Group A were asked to learn a list of word pairs (cat-tree, candle-table, apple-lake). They were then asked to learn a second list of word pairs (cat-glass, candle-whale, apple-sadness).
  • Group B were asked to learn the first list of word pairs only.

             Both groups were asked to recall the first list of word pairs.

Results- Group B's recall of the first list was more accurate than that of Group A.

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

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Context Memory- Godden and Baddeley (1975)

Context- environment or setting where something takes place.

Aim- To see if people who learn and are tested in the same environment will recall more information          than those who learn and are tested in different environments.

Method- Participants were deep sea divers. They were divided into four groups. All of the groups                   were given the same list of words to learn:

  • Group 1 had to learn underwater and recall underwater.
  • Group 2 had to learn underwater and recall on the shore.
  • Group 3 had to learn on the shore and recall on the shore.
  • Group 4 had to learn on the shore and recall underwater.

Results- Groups 1 and 3 recalled 40% more words than Groups 2 and 4.

Conclusion- Recall of information will be better if it happens in the same context that learning                             takes place.

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Amnesia- memory loss usually caused by physical injury to the brain; it can also be caused by a traumatic or emotional event.

There are two types of amnesia covered in the GCSE Topic:

  • Anterograde Amnesia- loss of memory after the event.
  • Retrograde Amnesia- unable to recall events prior the event.

There are two case studies involving amnesia. Milner et al. (1957) and Russel and Nathan (1946).

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Milner et al. (1957) and Russel and Nathan (1946)

Milner et al. (1957)

A patient suffering 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 (anterograde amnesia).

Other people have suffered brain damage that has left them unable to recall anything that happened before the damage occured. This is known as retrograde amnesia.

Hippocampus- a brain structure that is crucial for memory.

Russel and Nathan (1946)

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

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How Accurate Are Eye-Witness Testimonies?

Eye-witness testimonies depend on how well we remember what happened. So they can be affected by a lot of things we have already covered and more. But we'll cover the reliability of memory and leading questions.

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

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

An example of a leading question would be 'Who was the man who caused the vandalism?' This is a leading question because it suggests that it was a man and that the person caused vandalism when it could have been anything. This could lead someone to conform (say something they know is untrue from other people's opinions/judgements) or completely believe that it was a man and that they caused vandalism

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Loftus and Palmer (1974)

Aim- To see if asking leading questions affect the accuracy of recall.

Method- Participants were shown films of car accidents. 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 who 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 believe the car was going faster.

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