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Abigail Vos


PSYC 1009

Essay: Study Methods and Memory

Essay: Study Methods and Memory

In this essay, different study methods and their effectiveness will be discussed. Theories as well as
practical applications towards these theories will furthermore be explained and explored. When
looking at the process of memory, it could fundamentally be broken up into three sub-processes:
Encoding, storage, retrieval. These three sub-processes will additionally be explored and based on
different theories as well as empirical evidence produced by experiments and testing, a conclusion
will be drawn as to what the best study method is in terms of academic learning.

Encoding could simply be described as the way in which information is installed or inserted into
memory (Schutte 2017). Therefore, encoding is simply incoming information. This information is
furthermore processed in diverse ways and oneffect various levels of depth (Craik & Lockhart 1972).
Encoding could then be separated into three levels of processing. Structural processing is the lowest
level of encoding and therefore a “shallow” level of processing (Schutte 2017). Within structural
encoding the physical structure of the stimulus is emphasised and therefore remembered on a basic
level. The second level of encoding is the phonemic level of processing. This level of encoding is an
“intermediate” level of processing where the focus is deepened to other sense and associations such
as what a word sounds like instead of simply focussing on what the word looks like since this would
be the structural and first level of processing. The third and therefore “deepest” level of encoding is
known as semantic encoding. Within semantic encoding, the processing makes use of meaning,
association and context, therefore giving more meaning to the stimulus than would be given to it
initially when using structural or phonemic encoding (Craik & Tulving 1975). In a further incidental
finding, it was evident that when using semantic processing, positive associations rather than
negative associations better the memorability of the stimulus. An example of this is when a
participant was asked if a certain word was an ‘animal’, and the answer was, “Yes.”, the participant
remembered this specific word better than when the answer was “No.” (Craik & Tulving 1975). Craik
suggested that this lead to a depth and elaboration in understanding and encoding.

There are various theories on how to develop and enhance the encoding process and in return
develop memory performance in general. Among these theories, it is evident that one’s focus should
not be split but should rather be centred upon the task at hand (Schutte 2017). One fundamental
mnemonic strategy is categorisation (Bousfield 1953). It is evident that participants remember more
stimuli more effectively when placing them into categories, groups or clusters. This method is also
known as ‘chunking’ (Schutte 2017). In this way, the incoming information is minimised by
processing categories or ‘chunks’ rather than individual stimuli. This then leads to the second
process when it comes to memory; storage.

The concept of memory and storage itself could be separated into sensory memory, short-term
memory, and long-term memory. When a person is exposed to a stimulus, the sensory input is
immediately transferred to the sensory memory. When the information in the sensory memory is
not attended to, this information is easily forgotten. When selective attention is given to the
information in the sensory memory, this information moves towards the short-term memory. If this
information is then not properly coded, it is also forgotten. If it is indeed properly coded, it moves to
the long-term memory. The way in which to properly code information as to ensure that this
information is properly transferred to the long-term memory, is by making use of the rehearsal
buffer (Schutte 2017). Most coded information in the long-term memory is coded by making use of
the semantic processing level which, as mentioned above, makes use of the meaning of words and
stimuli on a deeper level (Grossman & Eagle 1970). Therefore, the storage concept of memory is one
that makes use of encoding.

The last sub-process in the process of memory and memorisation, is one of retrieval where
information that once was sensory information stored in the short-term memory, is recalled at a
later stage. It has been suggested and found that recreating the context and environment in which
the information was initially encoded. This is known as a context effect (Godden & Baddeley 1975).
The concept of the context effect was furthermore elaborated and explored and it was found that
internal contexts or the psychological and mental states in which a person is when the process of
encoding takes place via sensory and short-term memory, can equally affect a person’s retrieval
(Eich 1980).

When it comes to discussing memory, the concept of forgetting needs to be discussed and explored
as well. Forgetting occurs when a person is unable to retrieve certain information that had once
been accessible from memory (Gilhooly). Forgetting is evidently more prevalent when the
information that is needed to be retrieved was ‘meaningless’ when the person had originally
experienced the stimuli (Ebbinghaus 1885). Therefore, to prohibit or avoid forgetting, the semantic
process of encoding should be used so that meaning and context could be created.

In conclusion, the most effective and productive use of study methods in terms of academic study
could consequently be based on the functional use of encoding, storage and retrieval. Therefore,
one should make use of semantic encoding when studying, as to ensure a more effective method of
encoding and initial processing. By doing so, one ensures that time is not wasted when initially
exposing oneself to the information. Furthermore, one should repeat information one wishes to
effectively transfer to the long-term memory, in addition to this, one should make adequate use of
the rehearsal buffer as to ensure efficient transfer to the long-term memory. One should also be
aware of the physical and psychological context in which the information is encoded since, as
mentioned above, it influences the productivity of the initial study time itself as well as the retrieval

Craik, F., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic
memory. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 268-294.

Gilhooly, K., Lyddy, F., & Pillock, F. Chapter 6: Learning and Forgetting. In K. Gilhooly, F. Lyddy & F.
Pillock, Cognitive Psychology (1st ed.).

Save Time and Improve your Marks with CiteThisForMe, The No. 1 Citation Tool. (2017). Cite This For
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Schutte, E. (2017). Memory. Presentation, University of the Witwatersrand.

Sternberg, R., Sternberg, K., & Mio, J. (2017). Chapter 6: Memory Processes. In R. Sternberg, K.
Sternberg & J. Mio, Cognition (6th ed.). Wadsworth. - The world's favorite online thesaurus!. (2017). Retrieved 21 April
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