Models of Memory for AP Psychology
Practice questions for this study guide can be found at:
Different models are used to explain memory. No model accounts for all memory phenomena.
Information Processing Model
The general information processing model compares our mind to a computer. According to this model, input is information. First input is encoded when our sensory receptors send impulses that are registered by neurons in our brain, similar to getting electronic information into our computer's CPU (central processing unit) by keyboarding. We must store and retain the information in our brain for some period of time, ranging from a moment to a lifetime, similar to saving information into our computer's hard drive. Finally, information must be retrieved upon demand when it is needed, similar to opening up a document or application from the hard drive.
Because we are unable to process all incoming sensory stimulation that is available, we start seeking out, focusing on and selecting aspects of the available information. Donald Broadbent modeled human memory and thought processes using a flowchart that showed competing information filtered out early, as it is received by the senses and analyzed in the stages of memory. Attention is the mechanism by which we restrict information. Trying to attend to one task over another requires selective or focused attention. We have great difficulty when we try to attend to two complex tasks at once requiring divided attentention, such as listening to different conversations or driving and texting. In dichotic listening experiments, participants heard different messages through left and right headphones simultaneously. They were directed to attend to one of the messages and repeat back the words (shadow it). Very little about the unattended message was processed, unless the participant's name was said, which was noticed (the cocktail party effect). When the cocktail party effect occurred, information was lost from the attended ear. According to Anne Treisman's feature integration theory, you must focus attention on complex incoming auditory or visual information in order to synthesize it into a meaningful pattern.
Levels of Processing Model
According to Fergus Craik and Robert Lockhart's levels of processing model, how long and how well we remember information depends on how deeply we process the information when it is encoded. With shallow processing, we use structural encoding of superficial sensory information that emphasizes the physical characteristics, such as lines and curves, of the stimulus as it first comes in. We assign no relevance to shallow processed information. For example, once traffic passes and no more traffic is coming, we cross the street. We notice that vehicles pass, but don't pay attention to whether cars, bikes, or trucks make up the traffic and don't remember any of them. Semantic encoding, associated with deep processing, emphasizes the meaning of verbal input. Deep processing occurs when we attach meaning to information, and create associations between the new memory and existing memories (elaboration). Most of the information we remember over long periods is semantically encoded. For example, if you noticed a new red sports car, just like the one you dream about owning, zoom past you with the license plate, "FASTEST1," and with your English teacher in the driver's seat, you would probably remember it. One of the best ways to facilitate later recall is to relate the new information to ourselves (self-referent encoding).
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