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The Range & Content of Human Memory

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Chapter 5: p183

Focus Questions

How do psychologist and personality define memory?

Memory is both the set of “storehouses” for information we learn and the process by which we learn it.

What are the stages in the information-processing view of memory?

Memory may last from a fraction of a second to a lifetime. The range is divided into three stages:

  1. Sensory memory: is made up of the lingering traces of information sent to the brain by the senses. Depending on the sense, the information will be forgotten within a fraction of a second to several seconds unless it is transferred to short-term memory.
  2. Short-term (working) memory: can hold about seven unrelated items of information, which will be forgotten within about 15 to 30 seconds unless additional processing occurs.
  • Information processing in short term memory includes several steps:
    • Scanning
      • Scanning the information in sensory memory and selecting some of it as worthy of attention,
    • Encoding:
      • Encoding can be acoustic, visual, or semantic.
    • Rehearsal:
      • Through rehearsal, information can be kept in short-term memory as long as desired, although the amount of information that can be kept there is quite small.
    • Further encoding that allows the information to be copied to long term memory
  1. Long-term memory: is the more or less permanent set of storehouses of information.
  • Long term memory can be divide into two types of memory:
    • Procedural memory: Memory for how to do things.
    • Declarative memory: Memory for knowledge that can be put into words.
  1. Semantic memory: Memory for knowledge that is independent of the context in which the knowledge was acquired.
  2. Episodic memory: Memory that includes the context in which the knowledge was required.

Retrieval is the process of extracting information from long term memory

How do the stages of memory interact?

Sights, sounds, and other sensory information in the environment register briefly in sensory memory. Some information in promptly lost. Information that is attended to is transffered to short-term or working memory. Again some is lost, but some is rehearsed and “kept in mind” long enough to be copied to long-term memory—a more-or-less permanent set of storehouses from which information can later be retrieved.


The Range & Content of Human Memory: Definitions

Sensory memory

The memory that briefly holds sensory information for transfer to short-term memory.

Short-term (working) Memory

The conscious memory system that holds information only for about 15 to 30 seconds unless it is rehearsed or otherwise processed.


The process by which information is entered into memory in either acoustic, visual, or semantic form.


A process in which information is deliberately repeated so that it can be retained temporarily or copied to long term memory.

Long-term memory

The memory system in which information is stored more or less permanently.

Procedural memory

Memory for how to do things.

Declarative memory

Memory for knowledge that can be put into words.

Semantic memory

Memory for knowledge that is independent of the context in which the knowledge was acquired.

Episodic memory 

Memory that includes the context in which the knowledge was required. 


The process of extracting knowledge from long-term memory.



Chapter 5: Why We Forget: p188

Focus Questions

How do psychologists assess remembering and forgetting?

Because recall is more difficult than recognition, recall is a more thorough measure of memory. Relearning is the most sensitive measure of memory.

Ebbinghaus established the basic curve of forgetting in the 19th century.

What is a memory “trace”?

Exactly what happens inside the nervous system when we store information in long-term memory is not known. A traditional way of viewing memory is in terms of memory traces, which sometimes persists and sometimes disappear.

Consolidation refers to how memory traces are established in long-term memory.

What factors are involved in forgetting?

Theories of forgetting include decay of memory traces, simple failure of retrieval, proactive and retroactive interference, and motivational forgetting.

Generally memories are more easily retrieved in the physical setting in which they were learned.


Why we forget: Definitions


Retrieval of detail given minimal cues, as in essay exams.


Retrieval of limited amounts of information given extensive cues, as in some multiple choice exams

Relearning or Savings 

A measure of memory obtained by having a participant relearn something that she or he learned previously and assessing how long it takes to learn the material the second time.

Memory trace 

The basic unit of memory according to those who emphasize the changes in the nervous system brought about by learning


The fading of a memory trace with the passage of time.


The process of establishing memory traces in long-term memory.

Context-dependent memory

Memory that is facilitated by similarity if conditions during storage and retrieval.

Proactive interference

Interference that occurs when old information causes a person to forget new information.

Retroactive interference

Interference that occurs when new information causes a person to forget old information.

Motivated forgetting

Deliberate forgetting; in psychodynamic theory, repression.

Chapter 5: Factors in
Encoding and Storage: p195

Focus Questions

How can short-term memory be enhanced?

Chunking increases the amount of information that can be retained in short-term memory, because short-term memory can hold about seven items whether large or small.

Why is long term memory often inaccurate?

The manner in which we encode information and copy it to long-term memory determines how well we can remember and retrieve it.

Sometimes we encode and can retrieve virtually an exact copy of the information stored in long-term memory. More often, memory is constructive and not particularly accurate

How do emotional states affect memory?

When extreme emotionality is associated with an event, a flashbulb memory may result. Flashbulb memory tends to become less accurate with the passage of time.

Depressed people often have memory problems, but less extreme variations in mood can help with memory because of the phenomenon of mood-dependent memory.


Factors in Encoding and Storage: Definitions


Combining information into units in order to increase the amount that can be held in short-term memory.

Flashbulb memory

A highly detailed memory of an emotionally charged event or experience.

Mood-dependent memory

The phenomenon that remembering is easier when a person is in the same mood he or she was in during learning.

Chapter 5: Linkages in
Learning & Memory: p199

Focus Questions

How do meaning and organization enhance long-term memory?

How well we remember information generally depends on how well we learned it the first place.

According to William James, “The more other facts a fact is associated with in the mind the better possession of it our memory retains.”

Why is learning rules superior to learning by rote?

Finding meaning and organization and using rules are more effective ways of learning than learning by rote.

How does Overlearning affect memory?

Overlearning tends to increase how long a memory will last.


Linkages in Learning & Memory: Definitions

Rule learning

Learning by trying to understand the principles of logic underlying information.

Rote Learning

Learning through memorization, by mentally repeating information over and over.


Increasing the amount of time a memory will last by engaging in extra learning.


Chapter 5: Learning How to Learn and Remember: p203

Focus Questions

What do psychologists mean by “learning to learn”?

The term learning set refers to a strategy for learning.

How do categorization and clustering enhance long-term memory?

Categorization and clustering increase the efficiency of encoding and retrieval.

We are particularly adept at clustering material that involves cause-and-effect relationships.

What are mnemonic devices and how do they work?

Making up stories improves memory for unrelated items, as do mnemonic devices based on imagery and humor.


Learning How to Learn and Remember: Definitions

Learning set

A learned strategy for approaching a learning task.


Learning by arranging related items of information in a hierarchy.


Learning by organizing related items of information into meaningful groups


A mental picture of an event.

Mnemonic device

A technique for encoding unrelated items of information so as to make them easier to remember, typically through adding imagery and humor.


Written by Joseph Eulo

May 28, 2008 at 8:37 am

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