Unit 1.1: Memory

The first topic we have covered for Unit 1 is Memory.


key terms

Information Processing Approach: The idea that information is processed through a number of stages

information processing

Input: Information enters from the environment

Encoding: The process in which data is changed into another format

Storage: The process in which information is held, ready to be used at a later date

Retrieval: The process in which information is located and taken out of storage

Output: The process of using data after it has been received

Memory problems

Accessibility problems: Problems associated with retrieving information from storage, usually assisted by cues in the environment. Can be used to explain the Tip of the Tongue phenomenon

Availability problems: Problems associated with information no longer being stored.

core theory

The Multi Store Model


Short Term Memory: The memory store that has limited capacity (5-9 items) and limited duration (18-30 seconds) and where information becomes conscious

Long Term Memory: The memory store that has unlimited capacity and unlimited duration, and where information is permanently stored.

Decay: Information is lost from the memory store due to underuse, it fades over time until it is forgotten

Displacement: A process in which information is ‘shunted out’ of storage by new information and becomes forgotten

Maintenance Rehearsal: This is the process of repeating information again and again in order to move information from STM to LTM.

crits of core

One criticism is the model is too rigid, it states that all the stages of the model have to be followed exactly the same by all people – this ignores individual differences. There are people that have better memory than others and the model does not allow for this.

The model oversimplifies the memory stores, it says that information just passes through STM, whereas some people argue the STM is not such a passive store and is more active in making memories.

It is also argued that there are different types of long term memory stores that store different types of information.

The model overemphasises rehearsal, it claims that all information has to be rehearsed to enter LTM. Some events that are particularly traumatic or meaningful may enter LTM without rehearsal, and equally all rehearsed information does not necessarily pass into LTM forever.


The alternative theory is Levels of Processing that is a different theory of how the memory works. It tackles the problem of the overemphasis of rehearsal. It says we process information in two different ways:

Deep Processing: more likely to be remembered because we encode information for meaning, e.g. thinking about what a piece of writing means or trying to understand what a person is saying.

Shallow Processing: less likely to be remembered as we only encode the information on it’s physical properties, e.g. what colour someone’s hair was or what font a slogan was written in.

core study

Terry (2005)


Aim: To investigate the Serial Positition Effect (SPE) and show the limited capacity and duration of STM.

Procedure: Terry used a repeated measures experiment with students as his participants. The independent variable was the type of recall the participants did (immediate or delayed) and the dependent variable was the number of brands the participants could recall from the adverts they watched.

Participants watched 15 adverts that were 30 seconds long before recalling them immediately, they then watched a second group of 15 adverts (again 30secs), completed a distraction task and then tried to recall as many brand names as they could.


Terrys results

Primacy effect: The first items in a list are remembered well because they have been rehearsed and have moved into LTM

Recency effect: The final few items are remembered well because they are kept in STM

Immediate recall showed both the primacy and recency effect, due to the minimal time between rehearsal and recall. The brands from the adverts in the middle were forgotten by displacement.

Delayed recall still had the primacy effect, and the middle adverts were still forgotten by displacement, however the final few adverts did not get recalled by the recency effect. Due to the 3 minute distraction task these decayed and were therefore forgotten.

Conclusions: Terry supported the ideas of Serial Position Effect, and the limited duration and capacity of STM.

crits of core study

Remember to use the Mnemonic GRAVE to help you remember a range of evaluation points

Generalisability: The use of students lessens the generalisability of Terry’s study as they create an age biased sample, but he did include both genders so is not gender biased. They were however all from the same area leading to a culture bias in the sample.

Reliability: There were many controls in this lab experiment, making it highly reliable and replicable. These include the use of the same adverts for all participants, the length of the adverts, the length of the distraction task.

Application: The idea of the Serial Position Effect can be used to help students with their revision – it is important to mix up the order of their revision to ensure the middle sections of information do not continuously get displaced.

Validity: The validity of the task is low, the memory of brand names does not represent a real life situation where memory was used. Also the artificial environment of the lab experiment lowers the ecological validity.

Ethics: There are very few ethical problems with the study, they participants gave consent to take part, were fully debriefed and there wasn’t much in the experiment that could have caused harm to them.


1. Mnemonics help us with ACCESSIBILITY problems

They act as a cue –this jogs our memory and helps us to recall the information we need.

2. The use of stories

The story can act as a “hook” on which you can hang new information to remember the next bit = another CUE


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s