Chapter 9 343-383

“Your memory is your identity”


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Memory loss and feats, information processing Encoding: how, what Storage:Sensory, shortterm, long-term Retrieval: Retrieval Cues

Forgetting: encoding failure, storage decay, retrieval failure Memory Construction: Misinformation, source amnesia, true and false memories, repressed or constructed memories?


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Defined as the “persistence of learning over time through storage and retrieval of information.” In large part you are what you remember Memories, unlike videotapes or photocopies, are personally constructed, which is why two people can experience the same thing but recall it differently. In other words, who you are affects how you remember. Highly emotional memories surprising memories are often very detailed – Flashbulb memories

Key Elements of Memory
 Encoding

– getting memories in  Storage – retaining information  Retrieval – recalling the memory We experience fleeting sensory memory, which feeds into our short term memory where it can be encoded into long term memory.

 Automatic

processing – we automatically record a great deal about space, time, and frequency of events. It is impossible to switch this on or off it just happens.  Effortful processing – consciously using our attention to purposefully remember something. Often we employ rehearsal (repetition) to do this.

Ebbinghaus – Retention Curve

The amount of remembered material depends on the amount of time spent learning it. Forgetting curve – most information is lost quickly with a small part of it being retained for long term. Unless you rehearse it!

Types of encoding
 Semantic

– encoding according to meaning, most effective  Visual – encoding using images, words that lend themselves to visual images are easier to remember  Acoustic – encoding using sound - Mnemonics - memory aids especially ones that use visual imagery and organizational devices


Organizing items into familiar manageable units often occuring automatically.

Examples of chunking remembering A chess game by particular moves and Strategies.

Types of Memory
 Iconic

memory – sensory memory, for visual images  Echoic memory – sensory memory for audio.  Short Term Memory – memory of random information that is not rehearsed or deemed significant that lasts only a few seconds and can only recall a few items.

Long Term Memory

Long Term Potentiation – an increase in a synapse’s firing potential after a brief rapid stimulation, the physiological neural basis for learning and memory

Stress Hormones and Memory
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Stress hormones that occur when we get excited or stressed affect memory – they boost it. The Amygdala, which processes emotions boosts activity in the memory forming regions of the brain. So weaker emotion = weaker memory. However prolonged stress (such as combat duty) has the opposite effect and shrinks the hippocampus (vital to memories). Sudden floods of emotion may block older memories (stage fright can make people forget their lines)

 Amnesia

is any type of memory loss. There are different types.  Some people damage the part of the brain that encodes memories so they cannot have anymore explicit long term memories. However such people can still learn implicit memories yet be unaware of their learning them.

Explicit and Implicit Memory
 Explicit

Memory – Memory of facts and experiences that one can consciously know and declare. Sometimes called declaritive memory  Implicit Memory – Retention independent of conscious recall, also called procedural memory. For example a motor skill like riding a bike or the results of conditioning.

Types of memory

Types of Longterm memroy
Explicit With Conscious recall Facts General Knowledge Personality Experienced events Implicit Without conscious recall Skills Motor and cognitive Classical and Operant Conditioning

Brain structure and Memory
 Hippocampus

– Brain scans show most explicit memory is laid down through the limbic system and the hippocampus. The hippocampus sends memories to the areas of the brain that need to record them.  The hippocampus structure has a right and a left side on either side of the brain. If you damage the left side you will have issues remembering verbal experiences, the right, visual.

Memory storage

Our memory is not stored in one place, remembering your first kiss many areas of the brain will light up on a PET scan. It take coordination of several parts of the brain both to encode and retrieve memory. The Cerebellum – the cerebellum is used mostly for muscle coordination but also for storing conditioning responses. Damage to the cerebellum can cause implicit memory loss. Likewise if the hippocampus is damaged but not the cerebellum you can still be conditioned and learn motor skills.

 Recall

– a measure of memory in which the person must retrieve information learned earlier such as in a fill-in-the blank question.  Recognition – measure of memory in which a person need only identify previously learned material such as in a multiple choice question.

Retrieval Cues
 Priming.

Priming is the activation of a memory based on a particular association. This often happens unconsciously.  For example, being in the same room that you had your first kiss in might activate that memory randomly for you. Or a smell or a song or etc etc.  Mnemonic devices make use of retrieval cues: For example ROY G BIV.

Retrieval Cues
 Context

effects aid the recall of a memory. Being in the same location where something happened will help you remember it.  Déjà vu – Déjà vu has been explained as when a number of context cues come together to create the sensation that you have been in a situation before even if you have not.

Moods and memory
 Mood

Congruent - Moods can also affect memory. If you are in a certain mood it’s a context cue for remembering other events that may have occurred during the same type of mood.  Example – think of hanging out with friends and laughing at a joke, then you start to remember all the other funny things you have done and keep laughing, or when you are depressed you tend to remember everything that is wrong with your life

 Absent

mindedness – encoding issue by not paying attention to detail  Transience – storage decay, unused memories fade  Blocking – retrieval issue

 Misattribution

– confusing the source of information. (like thinking a memory from a movie scene really happened)  Suggestibility – the lingering effects of misinformation. Did Mr. Jones touch you? Later may become a false memory.  Bias – belief colored recollections. I never liked him might be what someone remembers of someone who lied to him when in reality they at first were friends

 Encoding

Failure - Some information is encoded automatically but if its deemed not important it requires effortful processing to encode it. Do you know what’s on the back of a penny?  Storage Decay – after time of not using memories they can decay or other memories may interfere with them. Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve is relevant here.

Retrieval Failure
 Proactive

Interference – The disruptive effect of prior learning on the recall of new information. For example: Someone who knows French but studies Spanish might have trouble remembering Spanish  Retroactive interference – the disruptive effect of new learning on the recall of old information. Someone who knows French who studies Spanish might also have issues recalling French

 In

Freud’s psychoanalytic theory the idea that certain memories are repressed because they are so painful the conscious self cannot deal with them.  Most modern psychologists will tell you that more painful events are actually harder to forget than remember.

Memory Construction
 Misinformation

Effect – incorporating misleading information into one’s memory of an event.  Source Amnesia – Attributing to the wrong source an event we have experienced, heard about, or read about or imagined.  The misinformation effect and source amnesia are the cause of many false memories

Discerning True and False Memories

False memories may feel real but brain scans can help us discern if they are truthful. A brain scan will be able to see if the memory is coming from the same place as other memories that were truthfully recorded. A psychologist was taken in custody for a rape he didn’t commit, he was let go because he had an airtight alibi. He was on TV in an interview right before the rape and there was no way he could have gotten to the crime scene in time to commit it. Later it was found out that the eye witness had actually watched the interview and had source amnesia.

Memory Construction vs Repression
In 90% of studies done it has been shown that children are more susceptible to suggestion and false memories, the younger the more susceptible they are. Traumatic memories are sometimes forgotten, most modern scientists point to the issue of prolonged stress on the creation of memories.

Repressed or Constructed Memories?
 In

the 1990’s psychology went through the “memory wars” where psychologists argued over whether psychoanalysis was effective at uncovering repressed childhood memories of sexual abuse or if those memories were actually constructed memories.

Elizabeth Loftus

Elizabeth Loftus because a controversial psychologist by doing experiments which showed the power of suggestion in creating false memories. She showed the memory construction is very real and gave an explanation for false memories of abuse, or UFO abductions, or people who claim to remember things from past lives. Because Loftus herself was sexually abused at age 6 and she remembered it, she saw people in psychoanalysis trivializing abuse victims by being coaching them to “remember” false abuse memories.

Research Conclusions
 Loftus

and others through hard work and many well documented experiments have shown that most (but not all) traumatic events are not forgotten by conscious mind but rather are usually etched into that mind and difficult to forget.

Improving Memory
 Study

repeatedly to boost long term recall – space it out, overlearn.  Spend more time rehearsing or actively thinking about the material. Actively study don’t just read something as fast as possible you will lose the information very quickly!  Make the material personally meaningful to you. Semantic encoding works best!

Improving Memory
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Mnemonic Devices are good for memorizing lists. Refresh your memory by activating retrieval cues – think about the mood and place you were when the memory occurred. Recall events while fresh in your mind before misinformation can take effect Minimize interference, study before sleeping, don’t study similar subjects right together. Test your own knowledge both to rehearse, and to learn what you need to work on

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