On Human Memory: Evolution, Progress, and Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

On Human Memory: Evolution, Progress, and Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

On Human Memory: Evolution, Progress, and Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

On Human Memory: Evolution, Progress, and Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model

Synopsis

The model of human memory proposed in 1968 by Atkinson and Shiffrin has the distinction of having revolutionized information-processing theory. It catapulated a whole generation of cognitive psychologists into sustained research programs that continue to be productive year after year. The book's notable authors analyze and deliberate on the model's monumental scientific contributions to human learning and memory. They also challenge it and delve into its likely future evolution and impact on learning and memory.

The volume was published in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Atkinson-Shiffrin model and sets forth a provocative future for memory workers and learning theorists.

Excerpt

Richard C. Atkinson University of California, U. S. A.

An anniversary like this provides an occasion to reflect on science and on our lives. My own career has had three major phases: about two decades as a professor, mostly at Stanford University; 5 years at the National Science Foundation, having been appointed deputy director by President Ford and then director by President Carter; and the last two decades at the University of California, first as chancellor at uc San Diego, and now as president of the uc System. Each of these phases had its own challenges and rewards, but I recall with special fondness the exhilarating time I spent exploring the complexities of human memory and cognition in the company of some of the brightest young minds in the field.

The Atkinson and Shiffrin model discussed in this book achieved significance and fame far beyond anything we could have imagined at the time it was developed. in hindsight, I am sure that serendipity and timing played major roles. Even my collaboration with Rich Shiffrin arose somewhat by accident. Much of my career at Stanford was spent at the Institute for Mathematical Studies in the Social Sciences, housed in Ventura Hall. the institute was directed by Pat Suppes, a distinguished logician and philosopher, and served as the home for economists, psychologists, statisticians, computer scientists, and political scientists interested in mathematical models in the social sciences. Bill Estes and I, along with Pat Suppes, represented psychology in the institute's array of activities. the institute was a hotbed for the then-evolving field of mathematical psychology, and was populated by postdoctoral visitors and graduate students, too many to name in this foreword, a remarkable number of whom are leaders in the field today. in the early 1960s I began working on mathematical models of memory and used a computer-controlled system to conduct experiments that involved the continuous presentation and testing of items over extended periods of time. This experimental procedure proved to be very adaptable and generated large amounts of data on individual subjects; it was ideal for testing various assumptions embedded in the models. in the fall of 1964 a new graduate student, Richard Shiffrin, arrived at Stanford, having completed a double major at Yale University in psychology and mathematics. He came to work with Gordon Bower, who was housed in the psychology building elsewhere on campus. Shiffrin began developing models of memory applied to list paradigms, particularly free recall experiments. After Shiffrin's first year, Gordon Bower left for a sabbatical year in the United Kingdom, and asked if I would take over as Shiffrin's research advisor, since our more or less independently developed models seemed quite compatible. Thus began an intense and productive collaboration.

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