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Ultimate psychology guide - MEMORY

30 April,2017 by Tom Collins

Psychology plays a large part in daily life. Having a basic understanding of why you behave in a certain way - can give you great power in fixing behaviour that you think is working against you. I find memory a fascinating process. Why have I forgotten something which I just learnt? Why can't I remember details about significant events?

Here are some notes about models of memory -

Multi store model of memory

It is proposed that memory consisted of three stores: sensory register, short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM). Information passes from store to store in a linear way. Both STM and LTM are unitary stores.


Sensory memory = information you get from your sense, eyes and ears. When your attention from 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, the information can be rehearsed and information can be rehearsed which will then pass into your long term memory.

Encoding = the way information is changed so that it can be stored in your memory. The 3 main ways of information being encoded is; 1. Visual (picture) 2. Acoustic (sound) and 3. Semantic (meaning)

Capacity = how much information can be stored

Duration = how long the information can be stored in the memory stores





Sensory register

¼ to ½ a second

All sensory experience

Sense specific

Short term memory

0 – 18 seconds

7 + - 2 items

Mainly acoustic

Long term memory



Mainly semantic (could be visual and acoustic)

Advantage; good understanding of the structure and the process of short term memory. Allows for researchers and psychologists to expand on the model meaning that researchers can improve on the multi store model by finding out what the stores can do individually.

Types of Long Term Memory

Procedural memory = part of the LTM and is responsible for knowing how to do things e.g. knowing how to ride a bike

Semantic memory = part of the LTM and is responsible for storing information about the world such as general knowledge e.g. London is the capital of England.

Episodic memory = part of the LTM responsible for storing information about events that have happened in our lives e.g. your first day of school


The working memory model

The working memory model by Baddeley and Hitch in 1974 was created as a replacement for the Multi-store memory model. It explains the system which involves active processing and the short-term processing of information.

The key features of the working memory model are the central executive, the phonological loop, and the visuospatial sketch pad.

Firstly, the central executive has an organisational function and his a filter, deciding which information is focussed on. It processes information in all sensory forms, sends information to the other slave systems and retrieves their responses. The central executive has a limited capacity and can only deal with one piece of information at a once. There are three slave systems in this model:

The Phonological Loop:

The Phonological Loop is a temporary storage system for auditory information in a speech-based form. It has two parts:

1) the phonological store, also known as the inner ear: this stores words you hear that other people say.

2) the articulatory process, also known as the inner voice: this allows maintenance rehearsal which is repeating sounds or words to keep them in working memory while they are needed. This part of the memory plays a key role in learning to read.

The Visuo-Spatial Sketchpad:

The second slave system is the visuo-spatial sketchpad. This is a temporary memory system which holds visual and spatial information. It has two parts: 

1) the visual cache: this stores visual data about form and colour.

2) the inner scribe: this records the arrangement of objects in the visual field and rehearses and sends information in the visual cache to the central executive.

The Episodic Buffer:

The third slave system is the episodic buffer which acts as a 'backup' store for information which works with both long-term memory and the other slave system components of working memory.

Support and evaluation for the Working Memory Model:

The working memory is supported by dual-task studies. Research shows that it is easier to do two different tasks at the same time if they use different processing systems e.g. verbal and visual, than if they use the same slave system.

A study with supports the Working Memory model is the KF Case Study. KF had brain damage from a motorcycle accident that damaged his short-term memory. KF's impairment was mainly for verbal information and his memory for visual information was mostly unaffected. 

This case study shows that there are separate short-term systems for visual information and verbal information. However, research from brain-damaged patients may not be reliable because it concerns individual cases with patients who have had disturbing experiences.

Another issue is the fact that little is known about how the central executive works. It is a major part of the model but the exact role is still unclear.

Lastly, the model still does not explain the link between working memory and long-term memory.

Research Study for the Working Memory Model

Baddeley and Hitch did an experiment in which participants were asked to perform two tasks at the same time. This task required the participants to repeat a list of numbers and a verbal reasoning task which required them to answer true or false to various questions.

Results: Baddeley and Hitch found out that the more digits in the digit span tasks, the longer participants took to answer the reasoning questions, but only by a fraction of seconds.

Conclusion: The verbal reasoning task made use of the central executive and the digit span task used of the phonological loop.

Explanations for forgetting

Retrieval Failure

Retrieval failure = when information is available in long term memory but cannot be recalled due to not having the correct/ appropriate cues.

When a memory is stored, information about the situation is stored which are retrieval cues. Then when in the same situation, retrieval cues trigger the memory when in the situation.

Retrieval cues can be;

. Context = external cues in the environment e.g. senses, smell, location.

. State = bodily cues inside us e.g. emotions, mood, drunk. Retrieval of memories will happen when a person’s psychological or physical state is similar to when the original memory was created. E.g. when hearing a joke when drunk, more likely to remember the joke when in the same state.

. Organisation = recall is better if the organisation gives a structure which provides triggers.


Interference = another explanation for forgetting LTM – usually when 2 sets of information become confused.

. Proactive interference = old information prevents the recall of new / recent information. What is already in our memory interferes with what is being learnt

. Retroactive interference = where new learning prevents recall of old information learnt. New memories disrupt old memories.

Proactive and retroactive interference is commonly occurring when memories are similar e.g. phone numbers.

 Read More  on Psyhology and memory



Author: Tom Collins (


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