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  • Created on: 13-12-18 16:59

Processes of memory

Episodic memory:

Episodic memory refers to memories of personal events or experiences you may have had in your life that are personal to you i.e. places you have visited or events that have happened. Examples of episodic memory are remembering your first day at school or a holiday you had last year.

Procedural memory:

Procedural memory is memory for complicated skills such as how to ride a bike, swim or tie your shoelaces and involved action-based memories. Procedural memory is believed to be stored using a motor code rather than a verbal code and this is why children need to be shown how to do tasks such as riding a bike or swimming rather than it being explained.

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Processes of memory

Semantic memory:

Semantic memory is memory for facts and general knowledge. An example of semantic memory is the knowledge about the meaning of words or knowing the capital of England is London.

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Structures of memory

The sensory information store (SIS)

Our senses are bombarded with sights and sounds however not all of them we pay attention to and most are discarded almost as soon as they are registered. The first part of the multi-store model of memory is the sensory store which stores this sensory information. This store is called the sensory information store (SIS) and it is not under cognitive control. Information deemed as important and given focused attention is selected and passed on to the next store which is the short-term memory store (STM). The sensory information store has a large capacity however the duration of storage is milliseconds unless this information is given focused attention. Research suggests encoding occurs in the way the information is received – so for example information received visually will be encoded visually.

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Structures of memory

The long-term memory store (LTM)

Information that is processed deeply through elaborate or maintenance rehearsal passes from the short-term memory store and into the long-term memory store. There is no specific duration for how long the information can be stored here and it could be for an entire lifetime or less. The capacity of the long-term memory store is also believed to be unlimited with encoding being mainly semantic and based on meaning.

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Structures of memory

The short-term memory store (STM)

Information we choose to hold on to from the sensory store passes to the short-term memory store. Atkinson and Shiffrin proposed that we store this information in the short-term store through rehearsal and repeating it to ourselves although this may not necessarily be out loud or consciously. Information that is not rehearsed is forgotten through decay or displaced by new incoming information due to the short-term memory store having a limited duration of up to 18 seconds and a capacity of 7 +/- 2 items. Encoding is mainly acoustic and based on sound. Information that is rehearsed through elaborate or maintenance rehearsal passes on to the long-term memory store (LTM).

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Structures of memory

Evaluating the multi store model of memory:


  • A major strength of this model is that the predictions around memory can be easily tested to verify whether it applies to human behaviour. The evidence supports the idea of STM and LTM being separate types of memory and it has been verified through the use of PET scans and FMRI scans when participants have been doing separate tasks related to short-term memory and long-term. The prefrontal cortex is seen to relate to STM while the hippocampus associated with longterm memory supporting the models idea of different memory stores.
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Structures of memory

Evaluating the multi store model of memory:


  • The theory is unable to explain how we are able to remember information that we do not rehearse and repetition does not necessarily make it easier to remember the information. For example we can recall our activities last weekend without rehearsal yet in other situations such as an exam; we may still struggle to recall information we have rehearsed. Other research suggests us understanding the meaning of information or how to put it into our own words is more important than simply repetition which undermines this explanation.
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Structures of memory

The effects of serial postition

Murdock’s serial position curve study (1962) looked to see if the position of a word in a list had any effect on the likelihood of it being remembered better. To test this out Murdock asked people to remember a list of words which varied from 10 words to 40 words. The results of this study found that people remembered more from the lists when they were at the beginning of the list or at the end when compared to the words in the middle. The conclusion was participants were able to recall more words from the beginning of the list as they had been moved into the long-term memory store while words from the end of the list were recalled better as they were still in the short-term memory store (this study would also support the multi-store model of memory proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin based on this assumption). The effects of serial position mean’s that the chances of recalling items depend on its position on a list with words at the start of a list or at the end having the highest chances of being recalled.

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Murdocks serial position curve study 1962

Aim: The aim of the study was to prove the existence of the short-term and long-term memory stores as the multi-store model of memory proposed. 

Study design: The study was a laboratory study which allowed researchers to control for extraneous variables. All procedures were standardised to ensure the experiment could be easily replicated. Participants were male and female students who had a requirement as part of their course to take part in psychological research. 

Method: 16 participants were presented with a list of 20 words at a rate of 1 word per second until all 20 words had been presented. They were then tasked with recalling as many of the words as they could remember within 90 seconds. The test was repeated with the same participants over 80 times over a few days using different word lists each time. 

Results: The results of Murdock’s study found that the words at the end of the list and the beginning of the list were recalled the best. Words being recalled at the end of the list became known as the recency effect. Words recalled at the beginning of the list came to be known as the primacy effect. Words in the middle were the least remembered. 

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Murdocks serial position curve study 1962


 Murdock concluded that this provided strong evidence for the multi-store model of memory and short-term and long-term memory stores being separate from one another. Words recalled at the end of the list were seen to still be in the short-term memory store hence they were readily available for recall thus providing support for the short-term stores existence.

Words recalled at the beginning of the list had time to be rehearsed and had thus been transferred over to the long-term memory store ready for recall which provides support for this stores existence. The words in the middle were not recalled as well as they had been stored in neither the short-term or long-term store.

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Bartlett's war of the ghosts study

Bartlett (1932) tested the reconstructive explanation for memory through his study “The war of the ghosts”. He wanted to see if memory could be altered by the individual’s previous experiences influencing their recall of events. To do this Bartlett played a game of “Chinese whispers” and asked students to pass on a story they are told to the next student. The story they were told was a Native American story which was culturally very different to what western students would be familiar to. It involved Native Americans travelling in canoes and fighting another group which turned out to be ghosts. Results found that the war of the ghosts story had dramatically changed by the time it reached the final student. Students were found to have altered the story so it fit into their own experiences and culture. For example instead of canoes, students recalled the mode of transport being cars and weapons as guns instead of bow and arrows. Bartlett concluded that memory was not accurate recordings of events but constructed and reconstructed to fit in with the individual’s own experiences. He believed individuals needed to impose meaning on something they did not understand and based this on their own understanding, experiences, hopes and fears.

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Bartlett's war of the ghosts study

War of the ghosts study – Key findings:

• Details such as ghosts were omitted.

• The story was recalled more logically and shaped to fit together better than the original.

• Details were changed to more familiar concepts to the person; for example canoes were changed to cars, bows and arrows changed to guns.

• The ordering of the story was also changed.

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False memories

False memories are when we remember something that hasn’t actually happened. Research into this has also shown it is quite possible to plant false memories into someone’s mind.

One research study saw participants questioned about their childhood using information from their parents to describe true as well as a false event regarding them getting lost in a shopping centre when young.

The results found 25% of participants believed the false memory thinking they had actually become lost and recalled details about what had happened to them while lost.

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Context is believed to be another factor that affects the accuracy of memory.

For example you find yourself at the top of the stairs only to forget why you have decided to come up or you enter a room only to forget why you were there

. This explanation proposes that returning to the context i.e. the place where you originally had the idea can help rekindle the memory for why you were going there

. Researchers believe that when we encode information we may also encode the things around us as part of the memory itself such as the sights, sounds, smells and textures etc.

Each encoded memory is then associated with different elements of context and when we are put back in that context, those associations are recreated and they stimulate different elements of the memory aiding in recall.

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