Definition: Memory is an indication that learning has persisted over time. It is the ability for people to store and retrieve information. For example, memory can include the ability to remember a math equation, your friend's birthday, or vocabulary words for an English exam.

Flashbulb Memory

Definition: Flashbulb memory is an extremely vivid "snapshot" of a highly emotional moment. Flashbulb memory is usually clear, strong, and persistent.

Stages of Memory


Sensory Memory: the initial recording of sensory information. The majority of this memory is lost. Lasts for 1/4 of a second.

Short Term Memory (Working Memory): Memory holding a few items (7 plus or minus 2) that lasts for less than 1/2 of a minute.

Rehearsal: Repetition. This is required for information to be stored into long term memory.

Encoding: The process of placing information into long term memory. Information may be effortlessly processed or require effortful processing.

  • Automatic Processing: processing information with consious awareness or effort.
  • Effortful Processing: conscious commitment of information into long term memory. For example, memorizing a fact from a textbook through rehearsal.

Long Term Memory: Unlimited capacity. However, some information can be lost as time goes on.

Test Your Short Term Memory

Stare at this image for two seconds.


Look Away. Write as many objects down as you can remember. How many objects can you name?

Try another one!


Another Short Term Memory Test

Memory Effects

Next in Line Effect: Failure of proper encoding due to individual's preoccupation of what to say or due when he or she is called on.

Spacing Effect: Rehearsal spread over time (distributed studying) is more effective than rehearsal focused into a short amount of time (cramming).

Serial Position Effect: Encoding is more effective with information at the beginning and the end. Memory of information in the middle of a list is worst.

More About Encoding

Semantic Encoding: Encoding based on meaning.

Visual Encoding: Encoding through the aid of mental pictures.

Acoustic Encoding: Encoding through the aid of sounds.

Method of Loci: Making connections between information that needs to be encoded and a familiar setting.

Chunking: Forming groups or units within information to aid in encoding.
  • Acronyms

Hierarchy: Complicated information broken down into and subdivided into categories and subcategories.

Duration of Memories


Sensory Memory -------------> Working Memory ------------------> Long Term Memory

Sensory: Iconic (vision): lasts for 0.5 Seconds
Echoic (sound): lasts for 3-4 seconds
Hepatic (feel) : less than 1 second

Working Memory (Short Term): duration of 20 seconds

Long Term Memory: Unlimited capacity but some information may be lost as time passes.

Implicit vs Explicit Memories


Explicit Memory: facts and experiences (Capital of Mexico). Damage to the Hippocampus impairs our Explicit Memory.

Implicit Memory: actions or skills (how to ride a bike). Damage to the Cerebellum affects our Implicit Memory.

The R's of Memory

Retrieval: getting information out of storage.

Recognition: Identify an item from a list. Multiple Choice.

Recall: retrieving information without choices. Fill in the Blank.

Relearning: learning material for the second time.

Retrieval Cues: Associations that aid in the retrieval of memory.
  • Priming: activating a strand or "instance" that leads to the memory of interest.
  • Context Effects: retrieving a memory is influenced by the environment in which that memory is created.
  • Mood Congruent Memory: Mood plays an important factor in the memories that we retrieve. Stronger emotions=stronger memories.
  • Deja Vu: Cues from current situation trigger retrieval of a similar experience earlier.



Encoding Failure: If information is not properly encoded, it cannot possibly be remembered

Decay Theory: Memory Fades over time

  • Proactive Intereference: forgetting new information because of old info
  • Retroactive Interference: forgetting old information because of new info

Retrograde Amnesia: loss of past memories
Anterograde Amnesia: Loss of ability to create new memories

An Example of Anterograde Amnesia

Misinformation Effect: incorporating incorrect information into memory.

Source Amnesia: Attributing event to incorrect source.