AP Psychology
Cognition: Memory

Weiten Ch 7
Myers Ch 8


Memory, Language, Thinking, Problem Solving

  • Processes involved in the transformation, reduction, elaboration, storage, recovery, and use of sensory input
  • Codes are created from cognitive processes that serve as the basis for our knowledge of the world
  • These codes can be stored, recovered, and reconstructed (reconstruction is a common occurrence that is highly correlated with our general world knowledge

Physiology of Memory

We are not sure exactly what memories ARE.

One theory holds that when memories are formed there are ALTERATIONS IN SYNAPTIC TRANSMISISON at specific sites

1. HIPPOCAMPUS (and frontal lobe) is like the “save” button for DECLARATIVE/EXPLICIT memories -memories sorted and moved to permanent storage during SLEEP and DREAMING - consolidation.


2. CEREBELLUM & BASAL GANGLIA - processing center for NONDECLARATIVE/IMPLICIT memories (skills & conditioned associations) - CLASSICAL CONDITIONING happens here in cerebellum. Basal ganglia is involved in procedural memories for skills

3. AMYGDALA (two limbic system, emotion-processing clusters) has a heavy impact on memory formation.

  • Stress hormones (like cortisol) make more glucose energy available to fuel brain activity, which signals to the brain something important is about to happen, and initiates a memory trace in the fontal lobes and basal ganglia that boosts the brains memory forming areas -  sears information into the brain, while disrupting memory for neutral events around the same time
  • FLASHBULB MEMORIES of particularly emotional events (rape, 9/11)

4. LONG TERM POTENTIATION – long lasting increase in neural excitability at synapses along a specific neural pathway

5. Neurogenesis – formation of new neurons – may contribute to the sculpting of neural circuits that underlie memory (constant neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus)


Encoding – involves forming memory code --> getting information into your brain

Storage – involves maintaining encoded information in memory over time --> maintaining information

Retrieval – recovering information from memory stores --> getting the info out


Forming memory code --> getting information into your brain

ATTENTION is focusing awareness on a narrowed range of stimuli or events. You are more likely to remember information if you are paying attention.

Multi-tasking?....not a real thing

Processing - we perceive stimulus on different levels, the deeper the processing, the better the encoding, the better the memory retention (shallow – structural; intermediate – phonemic; deep – semantic)

  • Structural encoding - relatively shallow processing that emphasizes the physical structure of the stimulus. EX: Capital letters v lower case, length of the words, number of letters.
  • Phonemic encoding – emphasizes what a word sounds like, involves naming or saying (even silently) the words.
  • Semantic encoding – emphasizes the meaning of the verbal input. Involves thinking about the objects and actions the words represent.


  • ELABORATION (linking a stimulus to other information at the time of encoding);
  • IMAGERY (creation of visual images to represent words);
  • SELF-REFERENT (involves deciding how or whether information is personally relevant);
  • MOTIVATION (high motivation to remember, MTR, leads to more durable memories)


Maintaining encoded information in memory over time.


Sensory Memory– preserves information in its original sensory form for a brief time, usually only a fraction of a second.

Short-term Memory - a limited-capacity store that can maintain unrehearsed information for about 10-20 seconds. Capacity of STM is between 4-7 items (7 DIGITS, SIX LETTERS, OR FIVE WORDS)

  • Rehearsal - repeating the information (out loud or in your mind), is limited
  • Chunking - Grouping thing helps you remember --> like phone numbers
  • Interferences - competing information or stimulus. Reduces STM capacity


  • PHONOLOGICAL LOOP (repetition to maintain) -->
  • VISUOSPATIAL SKETCHPAD (hold and manipulate visual images) -->
  • CENTRAL EXECUTIVE SYSTEM (controls attention, switching focus) -->
  • EPISODIC BUFFER (integrates information, integrates with long term memory)

Long-term Memory - unlimited capacity store that can hold information over lengthy periods of time, indefinitely… permanently (probably not)?


  • Clustering (grouping similar or related items) & Hierarchies (multilevel classification based on common properties)
  • Schemas – organized cluster of knowledge about a particular object or event abstracted from previous experience with an object or event. People are more likely to remember things that are consistent with previous knowledge (schemas) than things that are not. EXCEPT people are ALSO likely to remember things that DON’T match their schemas.
  • Semantic network – nodes representing concepts joined together by pathways that link related concepts --> WEBS
  • Connectionist Networks & Parallel Distributed Processing (PDP) Models - We work on things in our brain simultaneously across different parts of the brain. So certain memories correspond to a particular pattern of activation of these networks. INTERNET NOT LIBRARY.


  •   DECLARATIVE MEMORY (EXPLICIT MEMORIES) – handles factual information (words, definitions, names, dates, faces, events, concepts, and ideas); OPERANTLY CONDITIONED RESPONSES TO STIMULI STORED HERE
  •   NON-DECLARATIVE MEMORY (IMPLICIT MEMORIES)– houses memory for actions, skills, conditioned responses, and emotional responses (contains procedural memories of how to execute perceptual-motor skills such as riding a bike, typing, and typing your shoes, information about the space around you, time [clock time and sequence of events], and frequency of things) - CLASSICALLY CONDITIONED RESPONSES TO STIMULI STORED HERE

Factual information (declarative memory) requires conscious thought; Conditioned response (procedural memory) is largely automatic and require little effort - in fact can get worse when you “think too much about it”

  • EPISODIC MEMORY is made up of chronological or temporally dated, recollection of personal experiences (what you have seen, done, or heard)
  • SEMANTIC MEMORY contains general knowledge that is not tied to the time when the information was learned (you don’t remember when you learned these facts, and are stored undated)
  • PROSPECTIVE MEMORY – remembering to perform actions in the future
  • RETROSPECTIVE MEMORY – involves remembering events from the past or previously learned information


Recovering information from memory stores --> getting the info out

1. Using cues – stimuli that help gain access to memories

2. Reinstating context of an event – CONTEXT CUES involve remembering the situation/surroundings/information surrounding the memory. Hypnotism OCCASIONALLY helps recreate this context and so might help memory

3. Reconstructing memories & Misinformation effect – MISINFORMATION EFFECT occurs when participants recall of an event they witnessed is altered by introducing misleading post-event information.

  • People also sometimes “adjust” the memory during the retelling depending on their audience, and introduce the misinformation to themselves

4. Reality monitoring – refers to the process of deciding whether memories are based on external sources (one’s perceptions of actual events) or internal sources (one’s thoughts and imaginations). “Did I take my pill or only think about taking it?”

  • SOURCE MONITORING – involves making attributions about the origins of memories, memories are not tagged with where we acquired them. “Did I learn this freshman year or junior year?”

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