Chapter 9: Memory
The Phenomenon of Memory
Memory – the persistence of learning over time through the storage and retrieval of
Memory capacity is most apparent in the recall of unique and highly emotional moments
of a person’s past.
Flashbulb Memories – a clear memory an emotionally significant moment or event.
Forming Memories of Information: Select, Process, Store, Retrieve
Information Processing System
o Encoding – the process of getting information into the memory system; extract
o Storage – the retention of encoded information over time.
o Retrieval – process of getting information out of memory storage.
Three-Stage Processing Model of Memory
o Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin
o Suggests that people create memories through three stages
o People first record information as sensory memory, and then it’s processed in
short-term memory, where it is finally encoded for long-term memory to be
1. Sensory Memory – the immediate, initial recording of sensory information in the
2. Short-term Memory – activated memory that holds a few items briefly before the
information is stored or forgotten.
*Working memory is a similar concept that focuses on the processing of briefly stored
3. Long-term Memory – the relatively permanent and limitless storehouse of the
Automatic Processing (without awareness)
o unconscious encoding of incidental information (i.e. space, time, frequency, word
o Hasher and Zacks- found that we can’t switch encoding/memory on/off
o encoding that requires attention/conscious effort
o Ebbinghaus- study with random syllables and memory “even after we learn
material, additional rehearsal necessary to retain”
o conscious repetition of information, either to maintain info or encode for storage
o tendency for distributed study/practice to yield better long-term retention vs
Serial Position Effect
o tendency to recall last and first items in list the best
o encoding of picture images
o encoding of sound, especially words
o encoding of meaning, including meaning of words
o mental pictures; powerful aid to effortful processing, especially when paried with
o memory aids, especially those with imagery/organizational devices
o organizing terms into familiar, manageable units (usually automatic)
o poorest memories are for what person said just before them (ex. saying names in
What we encode
o 3 key ways: encoding meaning, visualizing it, mentally organizing (some
automatically, but there are effortful strategies for enhancing memory)
Three Sins of Forgetting
Absent-mindedness: inattention to details produces encoding failure
Transience: storage decay over time
Blocking: inaccessibility of stored information
Three sins of Distortion
Misattribution: confusing the source of information
Suggestibility: lingering effection of misinformation
Bias: belief-colored recollections
What causes us to forget?
We fail to encode information
Gradual fading of physical memory trace
Proactive Interference: something you learned earlier disrupts your recall of something you
Retroactive Interference: new information makes it harder to recall something you learned
Daniel Schacter: created the seven ways our memories fail us (7 sins of memory)
Ebbinhause: Forgetting is initially rapid, then levels off with time (forgetting curve)
John Jenkins & Karl Dallenbach: Sleep benefits classic experiment.
Storage-Retention of encoded information over time.
Iconic Memory- A momentary sensory memory of visual stimuli; photographic or picture-image
memory lasting no more than a few tenths of a second.
Echoic Memory- A momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli; if attention is elsewhere
sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 or 4 seconds.
Short Term Memory
-Without active processing, short-term memories have a limited life.
-Typically only stores roughly 7 pieces of information
-Magic Number 7, plus or minus two (George Miller)
-At any given moment, we consciously process only a limited amount of info.
-Memory capacity is essentially limitless
-Point proven by those who can perform phenomenal memory feats.
Implicit memory- Retention independent of conscious recollection.
*Motor and cognitive skills
*Classical and operant conditioning effects
Explicit memory- Memory of facts and experiences that one can consciously
know and “declare.”
*Facts/general knowledge (“semantic memory”)
*personally experienced events (“episodic memory”)
Retrieval-Process of getting information out of a memory.
Recall-Retrieval of previously learned information
Recognition-Measure of memory where person only has to identify items previously learned.
Priming-The activation, often unconsciously, of particular associations in memory.
Déjà vu-Eerie sense that one has experienced something before. Cues from current situation may
subconsciously trigger retrieval of an earlier experience.
-Tastes, smells and sights often evoke recall of associated episodes.
-Placing yourself in the context where you previously experienced something assists in retrieval.
Mood Congruent memory- The tendency to recall experiences that are consistent with one’s
current good or bad mood.
State dependant memory- What we learn in one state of mind is sometimes more easily recalled
when we are again in that state of mind.
Misinformation and Imagination Effects
-misinformation effect: after exposure to subtle misinformation, many people
-repeatedly imagining nonexistent actions and events can create false memories
-imagined events later seem more familiar, and familiar things seem more real
-when we encode memories, we distribute different aspects of them to different parts of
the brain. Among the frailest parts of a memory is its source.
-we retain image, but not context in which we acquired it
-source amnesia: attributing to the wrong source an event that we have experienced,
heard about, read about, or imagined (aka source misattribution)
Discerning True and False Memories
-we can’t be sure whether a memory is real by how real it feels or by how persistent it is
Children’s Eyewitness Recall
-leading questions can plant false memories of a story they expect to hear
-however, when children are questioned about their experiences in words they
understand, they often accurately recall what happened and who did it
Repressed or Constructed Memories of Abuse
-traumatic events are sometimes forgotten
-cognitive psychologist Jennifer Freyd theorizes that memories may remain vivid for life-
threatening traumas, yet they may be dulled or blocked for traumas that involve repeated
-some who have forgotten claim later to have recovered memories of abuse
-many psychological and psychiatric societies around the world agree on the following:
-recovered memories are commonplace
-memories “recovered” under hypnosis of the influence of drugs are especially unreliable
-memories of things happening before age 3 are unreliable
-infantile amnesia: the inability to reliably recall happenings from the first 3 years of life
-memories, whether real or false, can be emotionally upsetting
Suggestions to Improve Memory:
Study repeatedly to boost long-term recall
Rehearse or actively think about material
Make the material personally meaningful by forming images and associations
Use mnemonic devices to remember a list of unfamiliar items
Recall events while they are fresh in your mind
Sophie – Phenomenon of Memory, Improving Memory, Assembly of Outline
Lindsay – Storage & Retrieval
Rachael – Memory Construction
Leeann - Forgetting
Melanie – Encoding