Short term memory

Memory plays a crucial role in our lives. As you know, there are many deadlines, dates,
and names to remember. How do we remember them all? Where does the information
go? Memory also plays a very important part in learning. Intelligence is fundamentally
based on memory. Learning means a change that causes a system to act differently on the
basis of what is contained within it. Our memories are constantly changing. To
understand how we learn, it is necessary to learn how we store information.

How the memory works is not exactly understood. Before I discuss the different
theorists and their ideas on how our memory system works, I will explain the basic areas
of our memory. Memory is the retention of information and how a person retrieves
information. Memory is essential for intelligent behavior. Without memory, learning
Memories are generally formed by chemical changes in the nerve cells and the
pathways in the brain that are involved with the memory process. The parts of the brain
that are concerned with memory are the hippocampus, cortex, and thalamus. Everytime
someone learns something new, new pathways are created.(Howe, 1983)
There is two types of memory which are motor-skill memory and factual memory.
Motor-skill memory obviously refers to remembering how to walk , run, etc. Factual
memory refers to remembering telephone numbers, names, different places, etc.

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There is three levels of memory in which input travels; sensory memory, short-term
memory, and long-term memory. The sensory memory absorbs things going on around
you. Sensory memory refers to the input that is taken in through a human’s five senses
(eyes, ears, nose, taste, and touch). Information is kept here for a brief second. If the
information gets attention, it gets passed on to the short-term memory. If the information
does not get attention, then the information is ignored.(Howe, 1983)
The short-term memory is where information gets passed to after the sensory memory.
The short-term memory is also refereed to as the working memory. This is where
information is temporarily stored. The STM has a limited capacity and a limited duration.
The STM can basically hold seven items at a time and no longer then thirty seconds. The
only way time is extended is through repetition. As you add new items the earlier ones
drop off. Due to the limited capacity of the STM, the amount of information received by
the long-term memory is limited. The information used by the short-term memory will be
sent to the long-term memory.(Rosenfield, 1988)
To help students remember more then seven items, there is a method called chunking.
This method groups items together in groups in order for a student to recall more
information. For example, if there is 14 letters (such as on the handout), the letters can be
combined in groups of seven. (refer to handout)
The long-term memory is where information is permanently stored by repetition or
links to already existing information. Information can be stored here for a few months or
for the rest of your life. Research has shown that information exists longer if it is
associated with already existing information.(Rosenfield, 1988)
The first major break in the study of memorization was made by Hermann
Ebbinghaus(1850-1909). Until this time, philosophers believed that memorizing processes
could not be measured or experimented on. Through experimentation on himself, he
concluded that there is a process to memory and there is a forgetting curve. His three
theories of forgetting were; the earlier the images are more and more overlaid, so to
speak, and covered by the later ones, the persisting images suffer changes which more and
more affect their nature, and crumbling into parts and the loss of separate components
instead of general obscuration. (Baddeley, 1976, pg. 4)
Ebbinghaus also researched the capacity of human memory. He used a method in
which he created called the saving method. This is a technique which he estimated the
amount of material retained by measuring the difficulty of relearning it. (Baddeley, 1976,
Ebbinghaus created many theories and experiments that will be used by other theorists
in the future. Ebbinghaus moved on to different subject areas and never concluded a
theory from his experiments on memory.(Baine,1986)
Baretlett used some of Ebbinghaus’ theories and concluded that when we attempt to
learn something, we base it on what we already know from our past experiences.

There are two theorist that focus on forgetting, which puts limits on memory. Freud’s
theory is based on repression. If the information that is coming in has painful associations,
a person well unconsciously block it.(Baddeley, 1976, pg.51)
The second theory came from the German School of Gestlt Psychology. The study of
memory was influenced by the discovery of the organization of memory, and autonomous
change in memory trace.(Baddeley, 1976, pg55) Using the study of shapes, the prediction
was made that memory trace would get stronger as the shape was study longer.

These are only a few theorists. There are so many theorists who have helped attribute
to the mystery of memory. One of the most influential theories is called the Levels of
Processing proposed by. This theory does not believe that there are separate stores(STM
and LTM) as most of the other theorists believe.
The Levels of Processing Theory was first introduced by Self-ridge and Neisser in
1960, and again by Sutherland in 1968. The theory explains how stimuli goes through
different stages. Morton (1970) and Baddeley and Patterson (1971) also suggested the
same theory. Each level of processing is deeper as more processing is required. There is
relation between the depth of processing and the duration of processing.(Baddeley, pg.76,
Instead, Craik and Lockhart proposed that input traveled to different levels of
perception, but they believe there is a working or short-term memory involved. The
working memory can operate at any of the processing levels.(Baddeley, 1976, pg. 166)
Cermak share similar views: “Information could be conceived of as passing through…

stages of encoding… at the same time that acoustic properties of a word are becoming
well-established, a weak semantic encoding can be starting. The word passes through
various stages of encoding, being categorized more and more specifically.” (Cermak,
Craik and Lockhart’s views; “The memory trace can be understood as a by-product of
perceptual analysis and…trace persistence is a positive function of the depth to which the
stimulus has been analyzed.” (Craik and Lockhart, 1972, p. 671)
The theory of Levels of Processing, according to Craik and Lockhart, consisted of
shallow and deep processing. They proposed that “different levels of processing are
necessary for the perceptual analyses that transform information about the various items’
attributes into forms stored as memory traces.” (Howe, pg28) Deep processing refers to
the meaning of the stimulus being processed.

The working memory in this theory is responsible for maintaining and prolonging
perceptual experience. The information then proceeds to what is call type 1. This is when
attention is diverted and information is lost. This area does not consist of permanent
memory. Type 2 processing is a deeper processing and has a higher memory
Craik and Lockhart’s theory has been criticized by other theorists. Kolers and Ostry
(1974) believe that physical stimulation information is stored in memory for a period of
time, unlike Craik and Lockhart.(Baine, 1986, pg.12)
Learning is based on information and experiences, and is also based on the functioning
of the brain and the nervous system. Due to the lack of knowledge about the brain or the
nervous system, it is difficult to know how people learn and how their memory functions.

There are a few theories in which most are familiar with. S-R learning with positive
reinforcement discovered by Pavlov; or Kohler’s cognitive learning theory through
Memory is essential to learning. The question where memory takes place and how it is
stored cannot be answered yet. Practice and repetition seems to be the way most new
information is learned. Cramming does not result in long-term retention.

Baddeley, Alan D. 1976. The Psychology of Memory . Basic Books, Inc. New York
Baine, David. 1986. Memory and Instruction. Educational Technology Publications,
Cermak,L.S. 1975. Improving Your Memory. Norton New York
Howe, Michael J.A. 1983. Introduction To The Psychology Of Memory. University
Rosenfield, Israel. 1988. The Invention of Memory. Basic Books, Inc. New York
Short-Term and
Lori Frend