Verbal Behavior and Learning: Problems and Processes: Proceedings

By Charles N. Cofer; Barbara S. Musgrave | Go to book overview
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are conditioned to background events. Their availability increases as they are repeatedly presented. This selective mechanism would seem to be reducible to what the present paper calls background conditioning.
The suggestion has been made by various authors that two types of memory be distinguished, short-term storage and long-term storage. The present analysis suggests on the basis of behavioral evidence that it is useful to distinguish three aspects of memory, all of which normally work together in short-term verbal retention. The stimulus trace is very brief and serves only for very short-term storage. The background conditioning and cue learning aspects of associative memory are considered to function in both short-term and long-term storage. The background conditioning factor, in general, is of more temporary influence than cue learning. However, the influence of background conditioning may extend over relatively long periods, as in the proactive interference that Underwood ( 1957) has found from lists learned previously.The preceding analysis of immediate memory pools insights into the learning process contributed by many investigators. Conrad ( 1959) has suggested that only information theory and neurophysiological theory offer any systematic explanation of the phenomena found in immediate memory. The present paper has outlined a third alternative. The approach to immediate memory by way of learning would appear to have some advantages over approaches stated in the language of information theory or neurophysiology. Information theory offers little more than a technique of measurement. It could be incorporated into the present approach to the extent that its coding of antecedent events is found to relate lawfully to behavioral events. Broadbent ( 1958) has found it of some help, although its usefulness seems limited ( Miller, 1956).Neurophysiological accounts of immediate memory have a speculative characteristic that limits their usefulness. While the approach of Hebb ( 1949), for instance, is interesting and runs parallel to the present account at various points, it is of necessity farther removed from the events it seeks to explain. Physiological events can only be related to verbal behavior in a gross manner. For fine-grain analysis of the antecedent events for particular instances of verbal utterances, normal stimulation of the sense organs is at present the only satisfactory technique.
Broadbent D. E. ( 1956) "Successive responses to simultaneous stimuli." Quart. J. Exp. Psychol., 8, 145-152.
Broadbent D. E. ( 1957) "Immediate memory and simultaneous stimuli." Quart. J. Exp. Psychol., 9, 1-11.


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