Memory Research

The Encyclopedia of Psychology states, "Learning and memory are closely related concepts. Learning is the acquisition of knowledge, while memory is the expression of what you have acquired. Another difference is the speed with which the two things happen. If you acquire the new skill or knowledge slowly and laboriously, that is learning. If the acquisition occurs instantly, that is memory."

In scientific terms, memory is the ability of an organism to retain, store and recall facts and experiences and the ability to process information. Many studies of memory were originally in the field of philosophy and used techniques of artificially enhancing memory. During the late 20th century, researchers placed memory within the model of cognitive psychology and then it branched off to be called cognitive neuroscience.

Information processing involves three stages of the storing and retrieving of memory. The first stage is known as encoding which involves the receiving and processing of information. The next stage is storage, which is the formation and creation of a lasting record of the information. The final stage is retrieval, which is the ability to recall and retrieve information that is stored.

There are three primary categories of memory: sensory memory, short-term memory and long-term memory.

An example of sensory memory or memorization is the ability to see something and after a few seconds of observation remember exactly what it looked like. The time lapse in sensory memory to process information is 200-500 milliseconds. In 1960, cognitive psychologist George Sperling conducted an experiment to study, prove and understand sensory memory. Subjects were given a card containing 12 letters arranged in three rows with four letters on each row. They were played three different sound tones -- high, low and medium -- corresponding to the various rows. After they looked at the cards for a few seconds the cards were removed. The various tones were sounded and the subjects correctly repeated the letters as they appeared on the rows.

Short-term memory, sometimes called active memory, is the ability to hold information in the mind for a short period of time, usually measured in seconds, and about four or five items can be stored. One can increase that memory capacity through a process known as chunking or lumping items together. A good example of chunking is the ability to recall a ten-digit telephone number. The person can chunk the numbers into three short groups: the area code of three digits, followed by a three-digit chunk and finally a chunk of four digits. This means of chunking, of remembering telephone numbers, is much more effective than trying to remember ten digits. Chunking is very effective in short-term memory because the person remembers meaningful groups of numbers. Sensory memory and short-term memory have a rather limited duration and capacity and the information received can only be retained for a limited amount of time and cannot be held indefinitely.

Long-term memory has the capability of storing information in larger quantities for an unlimited amount of time, sometimes the entire life of the person. People can remember things that happened to them in their early childhood and recall every detail as if it occurred yesterday. People can remember addresses and telephone numbers that they used many years ago or remember birthdays and anniversaries. People remember their social security number or bank account numbers throughout their entire lives. All these are possible because the information has been processed and stored in long-term memory. Short-term memory deciphers and stores information acoustically, by the way it sounds and not by its meaning, whereas long-term memory deciphers and codes information semantically, by its significance. When subjects were asked to repeat, after 20 minutes, a collection of words that had similar meanings, they had great difficulty.

One of the most prevalent problems facing the elderly is memory loss, which can be caused by many factors. Scientists have been trying many ways to alter that situation medically and have created solutions to help those in the early stages of memory loss. There are various techniques a person can try to improve short-term memory loss.

Memory Research: Selected full-text books and articles

Basic and Applied Memory Research: Practical Applications By Douglas J. Herrmann; Cathy McEvoy; Christopher Hertzog; Paula Hertel; Marcia K. Johnson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.2, 1996
Intersections in Basic and Applied Memory Research By Frederick G. Conrad; David G. Payne Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Memory Performance and Competencies: Issues in Growth and Development By Franz E. Weinert; Wolfgang Schneider Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Librarian's tip: Part IV "Practical Aspects of Theory-Oriented Research on Memory Development" and Part V "Future Directions of Research on Memory"
Memory and Learning: The Ebbinghaus Centennial Conference By David S. Gorfein; Robert R. Hoffman Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987
Librarian's tip: Part V "Topics in Memory Research"
The Handbook of Emotion and Memory: Research and Theory By Sven-©ke Christianson Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Distinctiveness and Memory By R. Reed Hunt; James B. Worthen Oxford University Press, 2006
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "The Concept of Distinctiveness in Memory Research"
Autobiographical Memory: Theoretical and Applied Perspectives By Charles P. Thompson; Douglas J. Herrmann; Darryl Bruce; J. Don Read; David G. Payne; Michael P. Toglia Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "The Relationship between Basic Research and Applied Research in Memory and Cognition"
Working Memory in Perspective By Jackie Andrade Psychology Press, 2001
Memory Development between Two and Twenty By Wolfgang Schneider; Michael Pressley Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "A Brief History of Memory Development Research"
Human Memory and Amnesia By Laird S. Cermak Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1982
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Amnesia and Memory Research"
Memories, Thoughts, and Emotions: Essays in Honor of George Mandler By William Kessen; Andrew Ortony; Fergus Craik Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
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