Term Definition
Memory The persistence of learning over time through the storage and retrieval of information.
Encoding The processing of information into the memory system – for example, by extracting meaning.
Storage The process of retaining encoded information over time.
Retrieval The process of getting information out of memory storage.
Parallel Processing The automatic processing of many aspects of a problem simultaneously. The brain’s natural mode of information processing for many functions.
Connectionism A modern information-processing model that views memories as emerging from particular activation patterns within neural networks. Memory emerges from interconnected neural networks.
Sensory Memory The immediate, very brief, recording of sensory information in the memory system. The ability to retain sensory information after stimuli have ended.
Short-Term Memory Activated memory that holds a few items briefly, before the information is stored and forgotten. “The magical number seven, plus or minus two”. Slightly better for auditory information than for visual information.
Long-Term Memory The relatively permanent and limitless storehouse of the memory system. Includes knowledge, skills, and experience. Flashbulb memories are stored in long-term memory.
Working Memory A newer understanding of short-term memory that focuses on conscious, active processing of incoming auditory and visual-spatial information, and of information retrieved from long-term memory.
Automatic Processing Unconscious encoding of incidental information, such as space, time, and frequency and of well-learned information, such as word meanings. Occurs with no effort or a minimal level of conscious attention; for example the sequence of the day’s events.
Effortful Processing Encoding that requires attention and conscious attention. Can become automatic with practice.
Iconic Memory A momentary sensory memory of visual stimuli. A photographic or picture-image memory lasting no more than a few tenths of a second.
Echoic Memory A momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli. If attention is elsewhere, sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 to 4 seconds.
Haptic Memory Refers to the recollection of data acquired by touch after a stimulus has been presented.
George Sperling Study By presenting research participants with three rows of three letters for only one-twentieth of a second, demonstrated that people have iconic memory. Research participants had a momentary photographic memory of all nine letters.
Peterson and Peterson Study Found that short-term memories have a limited duration without active processing and rehearsal. Unrehearsed short-term memories for three consonants almost completely decay in as short a time as 12 seconds.
Imagery Mental pictures; a powerful aid to effortful processing, especially combined with semantic encoding.
Mnemonics Memory aids, especially those techniques that use vivid imagery and organizational devices.
Peg-Word System Items to be remembered are pegged to, or associated with, certain images in a prearranged order.
Chunking Organizing items into familiar, meaningful units; often occurs automatically.
Acronym An abbreviation formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word; a form of chunking.
Hierarchy Composed of a few broad concepts divided and subdivided into narrower concepts or facts.
Spacing Effect The tendency for distributed study or practice to yield better long-term retention than is achieved through massed study or practice. Massed practice (cramming) can only produce speedy short-term learning.
Testing Effect Also called retrieval practice effect or test-enhanced learning.Enhanced memory after retrieving, rather than simply rereading, information.
Shallow Processing Encoding on a basic level based on the structure or appearance of words.
Deep Processing Encoding semantically, based on the meaning of the words; tends to yield the best retention.
Self-Reference Effect When people are asked to remember information related to the self, the recall rate is improved.
Semantic Encoding The process by which information is encoded based on its meaning. Preconceived ideas contribute to our ability to semantically process new information.
Craik and Tulving Study Experimentally demonstrated that people effectively remember seeing a specific word after they decide whether that word fits into a complete sentence. Formation of long-term memories often requires semantic encoding.
Hippocampus A neural center located in the limbic system. Processes explicit memories for storage. Verbal information is stored in the left hippocampus and visual designs are stored in the right hippocampus. Memories are not permanently stored in the hippocampus.
Infantile Amnesia The inability of adults to retrieve episodic memories before the age of 2-4 years. The hippocampus is one of the last brain structures to mature.
Hippocampus and Stress The prolonged stress of sustained physical abuse may inhibit memory formation by shrinking the hippocampus. By shrinking the hippocampus, prolonged stress is most likely to inhibit the process of long-term memory formation.
Cerebellum and Memory Plays a key role in forming and storing implicit memories created by classical conditioning. With a damaged cerebellum, people cannot develop certain conditioned reflexes.
Basal Ganglia and Memory Facilitate formation of our procedural memories for skills. The basal ganglia receive input from the cortex, but do not send information back to the cortex for conscious awareness of procedural learning.
Amygdala and Memory Stress hormones provoke the amygdala to initiate a memory trace in the frontal lobes and basal ganglia. Emotions can sear certain events into the brain while disrupting memory for neutral events.
Flashbulb Memory A clear memory of an emotionally significant moment or event. Facilitated by the body’s release of stress hormones. Misinformation can distort flashbulb memories.
Memory Trace A form of physical or chemical change in the nervous system. Research suggests that a memory trace is most likely to involve synaptic changes.
Long-Term Potentiation The increase in a neuron’s synaptic firing potential that contributes to memory formation. An effect of long-term potentiation is that a receiving neuron’s receptor sites may increase.
Recall A measure of memory in which the person must retrieve information learned earlier, as on fill-in-the-blank tests. Requires a higher depth of processing. Provides the fewest retrieval cues.
Recognition A measure of memory in which the person need only identify items previously learned, as on a multiple-choice test. Does not require depth of processing.
Relearning A measure of memory that assesses the amount of time saved when learning material again. Makes retrieval easier and improves the strength of memories. The speed of relearning confirms that information is stored and accessible.
Rehearsal The conscious repetition of information, either to maintain it in consciousness or to encode it for storage.
Herman Ebbinghaus Pioneering researcher that made use of nonsense syllables. He discovered that the amount remembered depends on the time spent learning.
Ebbinghaus Retention Curve Illustrates the value of rehearsal in the encoding process and retention. The more frequently one initially rehearses information, the fewer repetitions are required to relearn information.
Retrieval Cues Words, events, places, and emotions that trigger our memory of the past. Retrieval cues facilitate the process of priming. Memories are primed by retrieval cues.
Priming The often unconscious activation of particular associations in memory.
Context Dependent Memory We recall learning best if tested in the same environment.
State-Dependent Memory Memory retrieval is most efficient when an individual is in the same state of consciousness as when the memory was formed.
Mood-Congruent Memory The tendency to recall experiences that are consistent with one’s current good or bad mood.
Serial Position Effect The tendency to immediately recall the first (primacy effect) and last items (recency effect) in a list better than the middle items. Proactive and retroactive interference contribute most strongly to the serial position effect.
Primacy Effect The increased ability to recall the first items among a list of items.Occurs because there is more time for rehearsal and more time to relate the piece of information to something meaningful.
Recency Effect Remembering best items that come at the end of the list.
Anterograde Amnesia An inability to form new memories.
Retrograde Amnesia The inability to remember events in one’s life which occurred prior to a brain injury.
Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve How well we remember information depends on how long ago we learned that information. Discovered that the rate at which we forget newly learned information is initially rapid and subsequently slows down.
Retroactive Interference Newly acquired information inhibits our ability to recall previously acquired information.
Proactive Interference The disruptive effect of prior learning on the recall of new information. Ebbinghaus found the task of learning new lists of nonsense syllables increasingly difficult due to proactive interference.
Interference and Sleep Information presented in the hour before sleep is protected from retroactive interference. Research has found that people who sleep after learning a list of nonsense syllables forget less than people who stay awake.
Positive Transfer Knowledge or skills about a previous topic help students learn a new topic.
Motivated Forgetting People may forget unwanted memories, either consciously or unconsciously.
Repression Motivated forgetting in which anxiety-arousing/painful memories are blocked from conscious awareness. Involves a failure in retrieval. Freud emphasized that we repress anxiety-arousing memories. Repression rarely occurs.
Memory Construction As we retrieve memories from our memory bank, we often alter them based on past experiences and our current expectations.
Misinformation Effect Refers to the incorporation of misleading information into one’s memory of an event. The misinformation effect best illustrates the dynamics of memory construction.
Imagination Inflation Imagining an event which never happened can increase confidence that it actually occurred.
Source Amnesia The inability to remember where, when, or how previously learned information has been acquired, while retaining factual knowledge.
Deja Vu The eerie sense of having previously experienced a situation or event.
Misinformation Effect and Children Children are more susceptible to the misinformation effect. Poses a threat to the credibility of children’s recollections of abuse. Interviewers must use neutral words that children can understand.

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