Make your own free website on

Learning and Remembering
Psychology of Learning
Chapter 9

Basic Concepts
Learning is a change in behavior that results from experience, and memory is the effect of experience; both are facilitated by attention.
Much division among psychologists about what memory is and how it should be studied
Typically, memory refers to the availability of information and implies being able to retrieve previously acquired skills or information.

If memory is to influence behavior, it must be retrievable, right?

Some memory cannot be remembered consciously and can still affect behavior.

Remembering and knowing
remembering is different from knowing
Psychologist must consider storage and retrieval.
    3 kinds of storage: sensory, short-term, and long-term
    2 kinds of retrieval: episodic and semantic
Forgetting – either an inability to retrieve or an actual change in, or loss of, physiological effects of experience

Memories that do not involve conscious retrieval

Learning two sets of material
    proactive interference: when earlier learning interferes with the recollection of subsequently learned material
    retroactive interference: when subsequent learning reduces recall of material that had been learned earlier

Three-Component Model of Memory
Sensory memory
    the immediate, unconscious effects of stimuli
    cocktail party phenomenon = the ability of individuals to carry on their own conversations while hearing others; selective inattention.

Short term (working) memory (STM)
    Where as sensory memory occurs in milliseconds, STM occurs in seconds
    STM – awareness and recall of items that will no longer be available as soon as the individual stops rehearsing them; temporary memory
    Chunking is the idea that short-term memory can be composed of several categories, or chunks, of information rather than some unitary piece (like a digit or letter).

Theories explaining limitation of STM
    Decay theory: memory traces vanish quickly with passage of time (in absence of continued rehearsal)
    Displacement theory: there are a limited number of slots to be filled in STM and that incoming info. displaces old info.
    Interference theory: previous, rather than subsequent, learning somehow interferes with STM
Neither decay nor lack of rehearsal explains forgetting in STM; forgetting is most often tied to faulty retrieval cues or absence of cues
The purpose of STM is to retain something only as long as it’s useful, then discard it. Retaining everything would make LTM much more difficult.

Long-term memory (LTM)
    All that a person can remember that has not just now occurred (educational experiences, complete working knowledge of language, all stable information about the world) are in LTM
    LTM is highly stable
    LTM is generative
Understanding influences of LTM
Some things are more easily remembered, such as flashbulb memories.

STM and LTM Compared
    active memory, including what is “currently being thought of”
    equivalent to span of attention
    immediately conscious
    easily disrupted by external or internal events
    limited in capacity
    retrieval is immediate and automatic
    secondary memory
    not immediately conscious
    more passive and resistant to disruption
    unlimited capacity
    retrieval is more hesitant, may require a search, and may result in a distortion of what was originally learned

Types of LTM
Explicit (Declarative) and implicit (nondeclarative) memory
Implicit memories cannot be readily recalled and put into words
Explicit memories can be put into words
    nonconscious memory vs. conscious memory
    knowing vs. remembering
    physiological evidence: amnesiacs have lost huge chunks of explicit memory but retain implicit memories relating to motor skills and other items.

Declarative and Episodic Memory
Semantic memory
    Stable knowledge about the world, such as abstract knowledge, knowledge that is necessary for understanding and using language, knowledge of principles, laws, and facts, and knowledge of strategies and heuristics
    Can operate independently from episodic memory

Episodic memory
    Body of knowledge consisting of personal memories, tied to a time and place
    Susceptible to distortion and forgetting
    Dependent on semantic memory

Models of Declarative LTM
Most are associationistic in nature; all items of information in memory are associated in various ways.
Cognitive models, using abstract concepts
Models of LTM are basically information-processing models; very interested in attending, rehearsing, and organizing
Learning and Memory are usually no longer studied as separate objects.

To forget is to be unable to bring into immediate consciousness; does not imply complete loss from memory
implicit learning involves memories that cannot easily translate into symbols or be examined consciously.
Not everything that cannot be retrieved has been lost; some things may be retrieved later.
Reasons for Forgetting
    Brain injury or amnesia
    Fading Theory
    Distortion Theory
    Repression Theory
    Interference Theory
        retroactive interference – new learning interferes with recall of old learning
        proactive interference - old learning interferes with recall of new learning

    Retrieval-cue failures

Educational Implications
Principle goal of education is long-term remembering
    Rehearsal: to repeat
    Elaboration: to extend or add to
    Organization: to arrange according to a system
Systems for remembering – visualizing/chaining, mnemonic devices, acrostics, the Loci system, and the Phonetic system