PSYC 1001 Johnson & Wales University Role of Ethics in Research Reflection Journal Consider the role of ethics in research. Return to the research idea you

PSYC 1001 Johnson & Wales University Role of Ethics in Research Reflection Journal Consider the role of ethics in research. Return to the research idea you proposed a few weeks back — identify any ethical considerations. What parts of the APA Ethics code might relate to your research? In particular, describe how your research proposal would address the core concerns of obtaining informed consent and any potential for harm – physical or psychological. Chapter 8 Memory
Chapter 8
Figure 8.1 Photographs can trigger our memories and bring past experiences back to life. (credit: modification of
work by Cory Zanker)
Chapter Outline
8.1 How Memory Functions
8.2 Parts of the Brain Involved with Memory
8.3 Problems with Memory
8.4 Ways to Enhance Memory
We may be top-notch learners, but if we don’t have a way to store what we’ve learned, what good is the
knowledge we’ve gained?
Take a few minutes to imagine what your day might be like if you could not remember anything you had
learned. You would have to figure out how to get dressed. What clothing should you wear, and how do
buttons and zippers work? You would need someone to teach you how to brush your teeth and tie your
shoes. Who would you ask for help with these tasks, since you wouldn’t recognize the faces of these people
in your house? Wait . . . is this even your house? Uh oh, your stomach begins to rumble and you feel
hungry. You’d like something to eat, but you don’t know where the food is kept or even how to prepare it.
Oh dear, this is getting confusing. Maybe it would be best just go back to bed. A bed . . . what is a bed?
We have an amazing capacity for memory, but how, exactly, do we process and store information? Are
there different kinds of memory, and if so, what characterizes the different types? How, exactly, do we
retrieve our memories? And why do we forget? This chapter will explore these questions as we learn about
Chapter 8 Memory
8.1 How Memory Functions
Learning Objectives
By the end of this section, you will be able to:
• Discuss the three basic functions of memory
• Describe the three stages of memory storage
• Describe and distinguish between procedural and declarative memory and semantic and
episodic memory
Memory is an information processing system; therefore, we often compare it to a computer. Memory is the
set of processes used to encode, store, and retrieve information over different periods of time (Figure 8.2).
Figure 8.2 Encoding involves the input of information into the memory system. Storage is the retention of the
encoded information. Retrieval, or getting the information out of memory and back into awareness, is the third
Take this survey ( to see what you
already may know about memory. After you complete each question, you will be able
to see how your answers match up to the responses of hundreds of other survey
participants, as well as to the findings of psychologists who have been researching
memories for decades.
We get information into our brains through a process called encoding, which is the input of information
into the memory system. Once we receive sensory information from the environment, our brains label or
code it. We organize the information with other similar information and connect new concepts to existing
concepts. Encoding information occurs through automatic processing and effortful processing.
If someone asks you what you ate for lunch today, more than likely you could recall this information quite
easily. This is known as automatic processing, or the encoding of details like time, space, frequency, and
the meaning of words. Automatic processing is usually done without any conscious awareness. Recalling
the last time you studied for a test is another example of automatic processing. But what about the actual
test material you studied? It probably required a lot of work and attention on your part in order to encode
that information. This is known as effortful processing (Figure 8.3).
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Chapter 8 Memory
Figure 8.3 When you first learn new skills such as driving a car, you have to put forth effort and attention to encode
information about how to start a car, how to brake, how to handle a turn, and so on. Once you know how to drive, you
can encode additional information about this skill automatically. (credit: Robert Couse-Baker)
What are the most effective ways to ensure that important memories are well encoded? Even a simple
sentence is easier to recall when it is meaningful (Anderson, 1984). Read the following sentences
(Bransford & McCarrell, 1974), then look away and count backwards from 30 by threes to zero, and then
try to write down the sentences (no peeking back at this page!).
1. The notes were sour because the seams split.
2. The voyage wasn’t delayed because the bottle shattered.
3. The haystack was important because the cloth ripped.
How well did you do? By themselves, the statements that you wrote down were most likely confusing
and difficult for you to recall. Now, try writing them again, using the following prompts: bagpipe, ship
christening, and parachutist. Next count backwards from 40 by fours, then check yourself to see how
well you recalled the sentences this time. You can see that the sentences are now much more memorable
because each of the sentences was placed in context. Material is far better encoded when you make it
There are three types of encoding. The encoding of words and their meaning is known as semantic
encoding. It was first demonstrated by William Bousfield (1935) in an experiment in which he asked
people to memorize words. The 60 words were actually divided into 4 categories of meaning, although
the participants did not know this because the words were randomly presented. When they were asked
to remember the words, they tended to recall them in categories, showing that they paid attention to the
meanings of the words as they learned them.
Visual encoding is the encoding of images, and acoustic encoding is the encoding of sounds, words in
particular. To see how visual encoding works, read over this list of words: car, level, dog, truth, book, value.
If you were asked later to recall the words from this list, which ones do you think you’d most likely
remember? You would probably have an easier time recalling the words car, dog, and book, and a more
difficult time recalling the words level, truth, and value. Why is this? Because you can recall images (mental
pictures) more easily than words alone. When you read the words car, dog, and book you created images
of these things in your mind. These are concrete, high-imagery words. On the other hand, abstract words
like level, truth, and value are low-imagery words. High-imagery words are encoded both visually and
semantically (Paivio, 1986), thus building a stronger memory.
Now let’s turn our attention to acoustic encoding. You are driving in your car and a song comes on the
radio that you haven’t heard in at least 10 years, but you sing along, recalling every word. In the United
States, children often learn the alphabet through song, and they learn the number of days in each month
through rhyme: “Thirty days hath September, / April, June, and November; / All the rest have thirtyone, / Save February, with twenty-eight days clear, / And twenty-nine each leap year.” These lessons are
Chapter 8 Memory
easy to remember because of acoustic encoding. We encode the sounds the words make. This is one of the
reasons why much of what we teach young children is done through song, rhyme, and rhythm.
Which of the three types of encoding do you think would give you the best memory of verbal information?
Some years ago, psychologists Fergus Craik and Endel Tulving (1975) conducted a series of experiments
to find out. Participants were given words along with questions about them. The questions required the
participants to process the words at one of the three levels. The visual processing questions included such
things as asking the participants about the font of the letters. The acoustic processing questions asked
the participants about the sound or rhyming of the words, and the semantic processing questions asked
the participants about the meaning of the words. After participants were presented with the words and
questions, they were given an unexpected recall or recognition task.
Words that had been encoded semantically were better remembered than those encoded visually or
acoustically. Semantic encoding involves a deeper level of processing than the shallower visual or acoustic
encoding. Craik and Tulving concluded that we process verbal information best through semantic
encoding, especially if we apply what is called the self-reference effect. The self-reference effect is the
tendency for an individual to have better memory for information that relates to oneself in comparison
to material that has less personal relevance (Rogers, Kuiper & Kirker, 1977). Could semantic encoding be
beneficial to you as you attempt to memorize the concepts in this chapter?
Once the information has been encoded, we have to somehow have to retain it. Our brains take the
encoded information and place it in storage. Storage is the creation of a permanent record of information.
In order for a memory to go into storage (i.e., long-term memory), it has to pass through three distinct
stages: Sensory Memory, Short-Term Memory, and finally Long-Term Memory. These stages were first
proposed by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin (1968). Their model of human memory (Figure 8.4),
called Atkinson-Shiffrin (A-S), is based on the belief that we process memories in the same way that a
computer processes information.
Figure 8.4 According to the Atkinson-Shiffrin model of memory, information passes through three distinct stages in
order for it to be stored in long-term memory.
But A-S is just one model of memory. Others, such as Baddeley and Hitch (1974), have proposed a
model where short-term memory itself has different forms. In this model, storing memories in short-term
memory is like opening different files on a computer and adding information. The type of short-term
memory (or computer file) depends on the type of information received. There are memories in visualspatial form, as well as memories of spoken or written material, and they are stored in three short-term
systems: a visuospatial sketchpad, an episodic buffer, and a phonological loop. According to Baddeley and
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Chapter 8 Memory
Hitch, a central executive part of memory supervises or controls the flow of information to and from the
three short-term systems.
Sensory Memory
In the Atkinson-Shiffrin model, stimuli from the environment are processed first in sensory memory:
storage of brief sensory events, such as sights, sounds, and tastes. It is very brief storage—up to a couple
of seconds. We are constantly bombarded with sensory information. We cannot absorb all of it, or even
most of it. And most of it has no impact on our lives. For example, what was your professor wearing the
last class period? As long as the professor was dressed appropriately, it does not really matter what she
was wearing. Sensory information about sights, sounds, smells, and even textures, which we do not view
as valuable information, we discard. If we view something as valuable, the information will move into our
short-term memory system.
One study of sensory memory researched the significance of valuable information on short-term memory
storage. J. R. Stroop discovered a memory phenomenon in the 1930s: you will name a color more easily if
it appears printed in that color, which is called the Stroop effect. In other words, the word “red” will be
named more quickly, regardless of the color the word appears in, than any word that is colored red. Try
an experiment: name the colors of the words you are given in Figure 8.5. Do not read the words, but say
the color the word is printed in. For example, upon seeing the word “yellow” in green print, you should
say “green,” not “yellow.” This experiment is fun, but it’s not as easy as it seems.
Figure 8.5 The Stroop effect describes why it is difficult for us to name a color when the word and the color of the
word are different.
Short-Term Memory
Short-term memory (STM) is a temporary storage system that processes incoming sensory memory;
sometimes it is called working memory. Short-term memory takes information from sensory memory and
sometimes connects that memory to something already in long-term memory. Short-term memory storage
lasts about 20 seconds. George Miller (1956), in his research on the capacity of memory, found that most
people can retain about 7 items in STM. Some remember 5, some 9, so he called the capacity of STM 7 plus
or minus 2.
Think of short-term memory as the information you have displayed on your computer screen—a
document, a spreadsheet, or a web page. Then, information in short-term memory goes to long-term
memory (you save it to your hard drive), or it is discarded (you delete a document or close a web browser).
This step of rehearsal, the conscious repetition of information to be remembered, to move STM into longterm memory is called memory consolidation.
Chapter 8 Memory
You may find yourself asking, “How much information can our memory handle at once?” To explore the
capacity and duration of your short-term memory, have a partner read the strings of random numbers
(Figure 8.6) out loud to you, beginning each string by saying, “Ready?” and ending each by saying,
“Recall,” at which point you should try to write down the string of numbers from memory.
Figure 8.6 Work through this series of numbers using the recall exercise explained above to determine the longest
string of digits that you can store.
Note the longest string at which you got the series correct. For most people, this will be close to 7, Miller’s
famous 7 plus or minus 2. Recall is somewhat better for random numbers than for random letters (Jacobs,
1887), and also often slightly better for information we hear (acoustic encoding) rather than see (visual
encoding) (Anderson, 1969).
Long-term Memory
Long-term memory (LTM) is the continuous storage of information. Unlike short-term memory, the
storage capacity of LTM has no limits. It encompasses all the things you can remember that happened
more than just a few minutes ago to all of the things that you can remember that happened days, weeks,
and years ago. In keeping with the computer analogy, the information in your LTM would be like the
information you have saved on the hard drive. It isn’t there on your desktop (your short-term memory),
but you can pull up this information when you want it, at least most of the time. Not all long-term
memories are strong memories. Some memories can only be recalled through prompts. For example, you
might easily recall a fact— “What is the capital of the United States?”—or a procedure—“How do you ride
a bike?”—but you might struggle to recall the name of the restaurant you had dinner when you were on
vacation in France last summer. A prompt, such as that the restaurant was named after its owner, who
spoke to you about your shared interest in soccer, may help you recall the name of the restaurant.
Long-term memory is divided into two types: explicit and implicit (Figure 8.7). Understanding the
different types is important because a person’s age or particular types of brain trauma or disorders can
leave certain types of LTM intact while having disastrous consequences for other types. Explicit memories
are those we consciously try to remember and recall. For example, if you are studying for your chemistry
exam, the material you are learning will be part of your explicit memory. (Note: Sometimes, but not
always, the terms explicit memory and declarative memory are used interchangeably.)
Implicit memories are memories that are not part of our consciousness. They are memories formed from
behaviors. Implicit memory is also called non-declarative memory.
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Chapter 8 Memory
Figure 8.7 There are two components of long-term memory: explicit and implicit. Explicit memory includes episodic
and semantic memory. Implicit memory includes procedural memory and things learned through conditioning.
Procedural memory is a type of implicit memory: it stores information about how to do things. It is the
memory for skilled actions, such as how to brush your teeth, how to drive a car, how to swim the crawl
(freestyle) stroke. If you are learning how to swim freestyle, you practice the stroke: how to move your
arms, how to turn your head to alternate breathing from side to side, and how to kick your legs. You would
practice this many times until you become good at it. Once you learn how to swim freestyle and your body
knows how to move through the water, you will never forget how to swim freestyle, even if you do not
swim for a couple of decades. Similarly, if you present an accomplished guitarist with a guitar, even if he
has not played in a long time, he will still be able to play quite well.
Declarative memory has to do with the storage of facts and events we personally experienced. Explicit
(declarative) memory has two parts: semantic memory and episodic memory. Semantic means having
to do with language and knowledge about language. An example would be the question “what does
argumentative mean?” Stored in our semantic memory is knowledge about words, concepts, and languagebased knowledge and facts. For example, answers to the following questions are stored in your semantic
• Who was the first President of the United States?
• What is democracy?
• What is the longest river in the world?
Episodic memory is information about events we have personally experienced. The concept of episodic
memory was first proposed about 40 years ago (Tulving, 1972). Since then, Tulving and others have looked
at scientific evidence and reformulated the theory. Currently, scientists believe that episodic memory is
memory about happenings in particular places at particular times, the what, where, and when of an event
(Tulving, 2002). It involves recollection of visual imagery as well as the feeling of familiarity (Hassabis &
Maguire, 2007).
Chapter 8 Memory
Can You Remember Everything You Ever Did or Said?
Episodic memories are also called autobiographical memories. Let’s quickly test your autobiographical
memory. What were you wearing exactly five years ago today? What did you eat for lunch on April 10, 2009?
You probably find it difficult, if not impossible, to answer these questions. Can you remember every event you
have experienced over the course of your life—meals, conversations, clothing choices, weather conditions,
and so on? Most likely none of us could even come close to answering these questions; however, American
actress Marilu Henner, best known for the television show Taxi, can remember. She has an amazing and highly
superior autobiographical memory (Figure 8.8).
Figure 8.8 Marilu Henner’s super autobiographical memory is known as hyperthymesia. (credit: Mark
Very few people can recall events in this way; right now, only 12 known individuals have this ability, and only
a few have been studied (Parker, Cahill & McGaugh 2006). And although hyperthymesia normally appears in
adolescence, two children in the United States appear to have memories from well before their tenth birthdays.
Watch these Part 1 ( and Part 2
( video clips on superior autobiographical
memory from the television news show 60 Minutes.
So you have worked hard to encode (via effortful processing) and store some important information for
your upcoming final exam. How do you get that information back out of storage when you need it? The
act of getting information out of memory storage and back into conscious awareness is known as retrieval.
This would be similar to finding and openi…
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