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Chapter 09 - Memory, Psychology, by David G. Myers, 6th Edition Textbook


Memory is any indication that learning has persisted over time

Several different models or explanations of how memory works have emerged from memory research.  Two of the most important models: the three-box/information processing model and the levels of processing model.  Neither model is perfect.

Three Box model proposes the three stages that information passes through before it is stored:

Sensory memory

  • split-second holding tank
  • the information your senses are processing right now is held in sensory memory less than a second
  • George Sperling did experiments, showed iconic memory – a split-second perfect photograph of a scene
  • Other experiments indicate echoic memory – split-second memory for sounds
  • Most of the information in sensory memory is not encoded
  • Selective attention determines which sensory messages get encoded

Short-term/Working Memory

  • memories we are currently working with
  • temporary, they usually fade in 10 to 30 seconds
  • capacity is limited on average to around seven items (7+/-)
  • Events are encoded as visual codes, acoustic codes, or semantic codes
  • Capacity can be expanded through chunking
  • Mnemonic devices- memory aids, really examples of chunking
  • Rehearsal or simple repetition can hold information in short-term memory

Long-term Memory

  • permanent storage
  • capacity is unlimited
  • memories can decay or fade
  • stored in three different formats

Episodic memory – memories of specific events stored in a sequential series of events
Semantic memory – general knowledge of the world stored as facts, meanings, or categories rather than sequentially
Procedural Memory – memories of skills and how to perform them, These are sequential but might be very complicated to describe in words.

Memories can also be implicit or explicit

Explicit – also called declarative – conscious memories of facts or events
Implicit – also called nondeclarative- unintentional memories that we might not even realize we have


This theory explains why we remember what we do by examining how deeply the memory was processed or thought about.  Memories are neither short- nor long-term.  They are deeply (or elaboratively) processed or shallowly (or maintenance) processed.
According to the levels of processing theory, we remember things we spend more cognitive time and energy processing.  This theory explains why we remember stories better than a simple recitation of events and why, in general, we remember questions better than statements.


  •  getting information
  •  two different kinds: recognition and recall

There are several factors that influence why we can retrieve some memories and why we forget others.

  • Primacy effect – more likely to recall items presented at the beginning of a list
  • Recency effect - ability to recall the items at the end of a list
  • Context -  semantic network theory
  • Flashbulb memories
  • Mood-congruent memory- ability to recall a memory is increased when current mood matches mood when stored
  • State-dependent memory-
  • Constructive Memory – false memories, leading questions can easily influence us.


One cause is decay, because we do not use a memory or connection to a memory for a long time.  Relearning effect indicates that it isn’t entirely gone.
Another factor is interference, two types

  • Retroactive interference – learning new information interferes with the recall of older information
  • Proactive interference – older information learned previously interferes with the recall of information learned more recently

How memories are physically stored in the brain.

  • the hippocampus is important in encoding new memories.  Damage can cause anterograde amnesia (can’t encode any new memories)
  • long-term potentiation- studies of neurons indicate that they can strengthen connections between each other through repeated firings, this might be related to the connections we make in our long-term memory


Learning - the process by which experience or practice results in a relatively permanent change in behavior or potential behavior
Conditioning- the acquisition of specific patterns of behavior in the presence of well-defined stimuli
Classical or Pavlovian conditioning - type of learning in which a response naturally elicited by one stimulus comes to be elicited by a different, neutral stimulus
Operant or instrumental conditioning - type of learning in which behaviors are emitted to earn rewards to avoid punishments
Unconditioned stimulus US - stimulus that invariably causes an organism to respond in a specific way
Unconditioned response (UR) -response that takes place in an organism whenever an unconditioned stimulus occurs
Conditioned stimulus - originally neutral stimulus that is paired with an unconditioned stimulus and eventually produces the desired response in an organism when presented alone
Conditioned response - after conditioning, the response an organism produces when only a conditioned stimulus is presented
Desensitization therapy - conditioning technique designed to gradually reduce anxiety about a particular object or situation
Taste aversion - conditioned avoidance of poisonous food
Operant behavior - behavior designed to operate on the environment in a way that will gain something desired or avoid something unpleasant
Reinforcer - a stimulus that follows a behavior and increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated
Punisher - a stimulus that follows a behavior and decreases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated
Law of effect - Thorndike’s theory that behavior consistently rewarded will be ‘stamped in’ as learned behavior
Positive reinforcer - Any event whose presence increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will recur
Negative reinforcer - Any event whose reduction or termination increases the likelihood that ongoing behavior will recur
Avoidance training - Learning a desirable behavior to prevent an unpleasant condition such as punishment from occurring
Response acquisition - ‘building phase’ of the conditioning during which the likelihood or strength of the desired response increases
Intermittent pairing - pairing the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus on only a portion of the learning trials
Skinner box - box that is often used in operant conditioning of animals.  It limits the available responses and thus increases the likelihood that the desired response will occur
Shaping - reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behavior
Extinction - decrease in the strength or frequency of a learned response due to failure to continue pairing the US and CS or the withholding of reinforcement
Spontaneous recovery - the reappearance of an extinguished response after the passage of time
Stimulus generalization - transfer of a learned response to different but similar stimuli
Stimulus discrimination - learning to respond to only one stimulus and to inhibit the response to all other stimuli
Response generalization - giving a response that is somewhat different from the response originally learned to that stimulus
Primary reinforcer - reinforcer that is rewarding in itself, such as food, water, and sex
Secondary reinforcer - reinforcer whose value is learned through association with other primary or secondary reinforcers
Contingency - a reliable ‘if-then’ relationship between two events such as a CS and US
Blocking - prior conditioning prevents conditioning to a second stimulus even when the two stimuli are presented simultaneously
Schedule of reinforcement - in partial reinforcement, the rule for determining when and how often reinforcers will be delivered
Fixed-interval schedule - reinforcement schedule that calls for reinforcement of a correct response after a fixed length of time
Variable-interval schedule - reinforcement schedule in which a correct response is reinforced after varying lengths of time after the last reinforcement
Fixed-ratio schedule - reinforcement schedule in which the correct response is reinforced after a fixed number of correct responses
Variable-ratio schedule - reinforcement schedule in which a varying number of correct responses must occur before reinforcement is presented
Cognitive learning - learning that depends on mental processes that are not directly observable
Latent learning -learning that is not immediately reflected in a behavior change
Cognitive map - a learned mental image of a spatial environment that may be called on to solve problems when stimuli in the environment change
Learning set - ability to become increasingly more effective in solving problems as more problems are solved
Social learning theory - view of learning that emphasizes the ability to learn by observing a model or receiving instructions, without firsthand experience by the learner
Observational learning - learning by observing other people’s behavior
Vicarious reinforcement/punishment - performance of behaviors learned through observation that is modified by watching others who are reinforced or punished for their behavior
Token economy – a behavioral technique in which rewards for desired acts are accumulated through tokens, which represent a form of money
Cognitive map – a mental image of where one is located in space
Cognitive approach – a way of learning based on abstract mental processes and previous knowledge
Learning curve – a gradual upward slope representing increased retention of material as the result of learning
State-dependent learning- the fact that material learned in one chemical state is best reproduced when the same state occurs again
Transfer of training- a learning process in which learning is moved from one task to another based on similarities between the tasks
Positive transfer – a transfer of learning that results from similarities between two tasks
Negative transfer – an interference with learning due to differences between two otherwise similar tasks
Information processing – the methods by which we take in, analyze, store, and retrieve material
Schema – an organized and systematic approach to answering questions or solving problems
Elaboration – the process of attaching a maximum number of associations to a basic concept or other material to be learned so that it can be retrieved more easily
Mnemonic devices – unusual associations made to material to aid memory
Principle learning – a method of learning in which an overall view (principle) of the material to be learned is developed so that the material is better organized
Chunking – putting things into clusters or ‘chunks’ so that items learned are in groups, rather than separate
Forgetting – an increase in errors when trying to bring material back from memory
Overlearning – the process of learning something beyond one perfect recitation so that the forgetting curve will have no effect; the development of perfect retention.
Forgetting curve – graphic representation of speed and amount of forgetting that occurs
Recall – the ability to bring back and integrate many specific learned details
Recognition – the ability to pick the correct object or event from a list of choices
Interference theory – the belief that we forget because new and old material conflict with one another
Amnesia – the blocking of older memories and/or the loss of new ones
Short-term memory – the memory system that retains information for a few seconds to a few minutes
Long-term memory – the memory system that retains information for hours, days, weeks, months, decades
Sensory memory system – direct receivers of information from the environment – for example, iconic, acoustic
Iconic memory – a very brief visual memory that can be sent to the STM
Acoustic memory – a very brief sound memory that can be sent to the STM
Eidetic imagery – an iconic memory lasting a minute or so that keeps images ‘in front of the person’ so objects can be counted or analyzed, also called ‘photographic memory’

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