Memory Basics



When this page first loaded, you saw the main ideas (the level 1 headings). Start your studying by being sure you understand those level 1 headings. Then, test your memory for those headings by clicking the "Show/Hide Level 1" headings button. (Note that if you do not know the level 1 headings, you don't even have a general understanding of the basic concepts.)

Once you understand the level 1 headings, click on the "Show/Hide Level 2 headings" button to reveal the second level headings. Continue studying the different levels of headings until you have mastered the entire outline (although you do not need to know any of the italicized material), Note that mastering the outline does not mean that you need to memorize all our  examples. Once you have mastered the outline, you may have an "A" level of understanding of the material. To master the material, however, you will probably need to make up your own examples to help you make the material real, relevant, and memorable.

Good luck!


I. 3 Aspects of Memory: Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval

A. Encoding refers to getting information into memory. 

1. Different memories may use different codes. Examples:

a. Saying something aloud will encode that thing into short term memory

b. Making information meaningful will encode that thing into long term memory.

2. Memories differ in terms of how easy it is to encode information into them:

a. It is easy to get information into sensory memory: everything you sense gets in there.

b. It is hard to get information into long term memory: You can read over your notes many times and still not get any of that information into LTM.

B. Storage refers to keeping the information in memory.

    1.  Memories can differ in terms of how much they can hold.

    2. Memories can differ in terms of how long they can keep information in memory. 

C. Retrieval refers to getting the information that is in memory out of memory.

1. If the information is not in memory, that is an encoding or storage problem-- Not a retrieval problem.

2. Memories that are large will be more likely to have retrieval problems than memories that are small.

II. 3 Memories: Sensory Memory, Short Term Memory, and Long Term Memory

A.  Sensory Memory has two strengths but one big weakness.

1. It encodes everything you sense and it is big enough to hold all that information

2. It is huge: big enough to held everythign you sense.

3. It doesn't hold information for long--information can be gone in less than a second.

B.  Short term memory has 2 big weaknesses. 

1. It doesn't hold much: 5-9 chunks 

2. It doesn't hold information for long: Information is often gone in less than 20 seconds. 


C.  Long-term memory has 3 weaknesses but 1 big strength

1. It is hard to get information into LTM. To be sure to get information into LTM, you will probably need to use Type 2 rehearsal.

2. Once in there, you may not be able to retrieve it, especially if you haven't

a. Taken steps to reduce interference by making it different from other terms

b. Organized it so that you are retrieving a few groups of information rather than many individual pieces

c. Developed cues that will trigger your memory

d. Practiced retrieving it

e. Spread out your practice to both keep your retrieval paths mowed and to take advantage of the primacy and recency effect

3. LTM can store everything you need to remember and can often keep it in storage for your entire lifetime.

III. Improving Your Memory By Using Type 2 Rehearsal and Planning for Retrieval

A. Mnemonics

1. How they work

a. Avoid encoding failures by using imagery (a way to do Type 2 rehearsal)

b. Avoid retrieval failures by connecting those images to built in retrieval cues

2. Common types

a. Peg word mnemonic

b. Method of loci

B. Practical study techniques

1. Make it meaningful by thinking of personal examples or relating it to other things you know. If you can't make it meaningful, visualize it.


2. Reduce interference by understanding how it is different from similar concepts

3. Test yourself

4. Think of cues that will trigger the infomation you want to remember

5. Spread out your practice