The Multi-Store Model

The Multi-Store model of memory was proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin and is a structural model. They proposed that memory consisted of three stores: Sensory register, short-term memory, and long-term memory.

Sensory memory is the information you get from your senses, your eyes and ears. When attention is paid to something in the environment it is then converted to short-term memory.

If any information is not important then it decays or disappears. Once in the short term memory informed can be rehearsed and some information is rehearsed and then passed into long-term memory.


For the information to be stored in memory it first needs to be converted into the format that the memory can be used.


Once the information has been converted to a suitable format for the type of memory stores, it has to be placed in the store. Each store has a certain capacity and duration.

Capacity concerns how much information can be stored.

Duration refers to the period of time information can last in the memory store.


This refers to the process of accessing the information that has been stored in the memory. Each store differs in the way this is achieved and the effect it has on the information itself.

There are three types of Memory:

Sensory Memory

This collect information from our senses (e.g. sight, sound, taste, touch, smell and other).

Duration: ¼ to 2 seconds

Capacity: all sensory experience (very large capacity)

Encoding: sense specific (e.g. different stores for each sense)

Research – Sensory Memory (Capacity)

Sperling researched the capacity if visual sensory and concluded that it was essentially very large and that any part of it could attend to.

Procedure: He presented participant with a grid consisting of 3 rows of 4 letters (12 in total) for 20 milliseconds.                                

Finding: He found that when the participants were asked to recall the entire 12 letter, they could only manage to recall 3 or 4. But when they asked to recall only 1 row, they were able to recall all 4 letters from that row even though they did not know in advance which row to remember.

Short-Term Memory

STM is also referred to as working memory as it contains everything we are aware of the moment.

Duration: 12-30 seconds

Capacity: 7 ± 2

Encoding: Mainly Acoustic (Sound)

Research – Short-Term Memory (Capacity)

Miller found that STM can store about 7 plus or minus 2 items (chunks).

Research – Short-Term Memory (Duration)

Peterson & Peterson

Procedure: They presented participant with trigrams (groups of 3 letters that do not make a word) and asked them to recall them after intervals of 0,3,6,9,12,15 and 18 seconds. To stop participants from repeating trigrams  in their head, they asked them to count out loud backward in threes from a certain number.

Finding: They found that the accuracy of recall steadily declined until less than 10% of trigrams were recalled after 18 seconds.

Conclusion: They concluded that the duration of short-term memory is…


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