LONG TERM MEMORY I: STORAGE
A professor made the following comments, At least once a semester, a student
comes to my Office after receiving a poor score on an examination stating, but I studied so hard.
I studied twice as long as my roommate, yet, he only missed one question and
I missed seventeen.
Storing information in Long term memory and then retrieving it can be a tricky
If the two roommates referenced above were equally motivated to learn, the
difference between them may be due to storage and retrieval process.
What people see or hear may not necessarily be what they store in Long term
Unfortunately, our minds are not accurate recorders of life events. We quickly lose most of what we have stored in our sensory register.
In a manner of speaking, much information goes in one ear and out the other.
Because we can save so little information for any length of time, many learning
theorists believe that long term memory involves a process of construction whereby we use bits and pieces of information we
do retain to build a reasonable understanding of the world around us.
EXAMPLES OF CONSTRUCTION
Consider how much we miss from the spoken language: For example, lets say you are in a noisy room and hear someone say:
- ear a thing in this lace!
Although you havent heard everything the person said, you may have enough information
to perceive the sentence:
I cant hear a thing in this place!
An example of visual construction follows:
What do you see in this picture?
Most people perceive the picture on the left as being a woman even though many
of her features are missing.
The other two figures are a bit more difficult to see or figure out but it
can be done with a little time and concentration.
We should remember that people dont always construct the same interpretation
of any given event.
What do you see in
the figure below?
The picture above is an example of ambiguous stimulus. An ambiguous stimulus is something that readily lends itself to more than one possible construction. Some people perceive the figure as a bald man with overbite and a backward tilt to
his head. Others instead perceive a rat or mouse with a very short front leg
and a long tail curling beneath its body.
As you can see then, people often perceive the world in their own unique ways,
and all may arrive at different conclusion about what they have seen and heard. As
a result, several people witnessing the same event often store very different things in their long term memory.
Individuals knowledge about the world, their priorities and their predictions
about what environmental input is likely to be used affect what they pay attention to and hence also affect what information
moves from the sensory register into working memory.
A student who has learned that a teachers lecture content will probably reappear
on an upcoming exam is likely to pay attention to what the teacher is saying. A
student who has learned that a teachers exam questions are based entirely on outside reading may instead attend to something
more relevant or interesting, perhaps the flattering sweater worn by the student on his right.
You should recall from the preceding chapter that rehearsal provides a means
of maintaining information in working memory indefinitely.
Yet a number of theorists have argued that rehearsal leads to storage in long
term memory only if, in the process, the learner associates the new information with existing knowledge.
Look at this list of 15 words.
And now look at this list of words
Both lists are the same length, and both contain exactly the same letters.
Which list is easier to learn? No doubt you will agree that the second list is
easier because you can relate it to words you already know.
By relating new information to knowledge already stored in their long term
memories, people find meaning in that information.
Hence, this process is frequently known as meaningful learning.
We learn information meaningfully by storing it in long term memory in association
with other similar pieces of information. Meaningful learning appears to facilitate
both storage and retrieval. The information goes in more quickly and is remembered
Again let me reiterate that we not only store verbal or spoken information
but also visually. Visual Imagery is the ability to capture a mental picture
of how a figure actually looked.
Researchers disagree regarding the exact nature of visual imagery. Nevertheless, research indicates that forming visual images can be a powerful means of storing information
in long term memory. Numerous research studies have shown that people have a
remarkably accurate memory for visual information.
FACTORS AFFECTING LONG TERM MEMORY STORAGE
Several factors influence the specific way in which learners store information
in long term memory.
Verbalization (spelling a word: visualize it, pronounce it, write it, syllables)
Prior Knowledge (when you can connect new information to what you are learning)
SOME FINAL REMARKS ABOUT LONG TERM MEMORY
Before we leave our discussion of long term memory storage, we should note
a few final points about storage processes:
- Long term memory storage is idiosyncratic: Any two people store different
information from the same situation.
- Storage of new information sometimes affects previously learned information as well: Consistent with the process of elaboration, learners sometimes distort new material to fit their existing
beliefs. Yet, in other situations, a new piece of information may help learners
recognize that something they stored earlier is inaccurate.
- The ways in which people store new information affect both the nature of the knowledge they posses and the ease with
which they can retrieve that knowledge later on.
We typically store less than
what we have sense, because our working memories cannot hold all of the input that our sensory registers temporarily record. At the same time we also store more than
what we have sensed, using the often incomplete data we receive to construct a logical understanding of the events around
LONG TERM MEMORY STORAGE ENTAILS AT LEAST
Selection: which is the process of determining what information we should process
further and what information is irrelevant.
Rehearsal: which is repeating something over and over again in a relatively
Meaningful Learning: which entails connecting new material with similar ideas already stored in memory.
Internal organization: involves
integrating various pieces of new information into a cohesive, interrelated whole.
Elaboration: involves imposing ones own previously
acquired knowledge and beliefs on new information.
Visual imagery: which is encoding
information in a mental picture that maintains its physical appearance to some extent.