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Chapter 11
Theories of Learning

CHAPTER 11

LONG TERM MEMORY II: THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE

 

In the previous chapter we discussed how information is Stored in Long Term Memory.  In this chapter we will continue our discussion of Long Term Memory, this time focusing on the Nature of what is stored there something we generally refer to as Knowledge.

 

POSSIBLE DICHOTOMIES IN LONG TERM MEMORY

 

Up to this point, we have talked about long term memory as if it were a single, homogeneous entity.  Many psychologists argue, however, that long term memory may have two or more relatively distinct subcomponents.

 

EPISODIC  VERSUS  SEMANTIC MEMORY

 

Tulvin (1983) makes a distinction between the two types of Memory:

 

episodic memoryIs ones Memory of Personal Life Experiences 

 

semantic memory       Is ones General Knowledge of the World independent

                                                       of personal experience

                                                    

 The two forms of memory are different in numerous ways.  For instance, we remember events we have experienced (episodic) and we also know things about the world (semantic).  We can often recall when a particular event happened to us (episodic) but usually cannot recall when we acquired specific facts about the world (semantic).  Semantic memory is longer lasting than episodic memory.  Example:

 

You remember how to order a chicken sandwich at McDonald (semantic), but you may not remember the exact order you made last Tuesday at the McDonalds restaurant (episodic).

 

You remember that you celebrate Christmas on Dec 25th (episodic) but you may not remember specific gifts (semantic) you received on a given Christmas.

 

DECLARATIVE VERSUS PROCEDURAL KNOWLEDGE

 

Both episodic and semantic memory relate to the nature of How things were or aresomething that many theorists refer to as declarative knowledge.  But we also have something called procedural knowledge: that is, we know how to do things.

 

Consequently, a simple way to distinguish between these two terms is;

 

Declarative. indicates:  How things Are

Procedural...indicates:   How to Do Things

 

EXPLICIT VERSUS  IMPLICIT MEMORY

 

Explicit memory is knowledge that we can easily recall and explain in great detail.

 

Implicit memory is knowledge that we cannot consciously recall but that nevertheless influences our behavior (something that you are not totally sure of but you can imply that this might be the case).

 

 

HOW INFORMATION IS ENCODED IN LONG TERM MEMORY

 

Information is encoded in Long Term Memory in three ways.  These three ways are

 

Symbolically

Imagery

Propositions

 

 

Lets briefly examine each in more detail.

 

 

SYMBOLICALLY

 

A Symbol is something that represents an object or event, often without bearing much direct resemblance to that object or event (The U.S. Flag is a symbol representing America).  Consequently we encode information Symbolically.

 

 

IMAGERY

 

If you can imagine you mothers face, the smell of roses or the taste of chocolate, then you are probably using mental Imagery encoding.  Although some theorists argue against the existence of visual imagery, most psychologist believe that it is a distinct form of information storage.

 

 

 

PROPOSITIONS

 

Learning theorists believe that meanings are stored as Propositions.. that is, as small bits and pieces of knowledge concerning objects or events.

 

A proposition is the smallest unit of knowledge that can stand as a separate statement and can be judged as being true or false.  To illustrate, consider the following sentence:

 

 

Marys Uncle, whom she adores, owns a red Ferrari.

 

We can break this complex sentence into four smaller assertions, each containing part of its meaning:

 

1.  Mary has an Uncle

2.  Mary adores the Uncle

3.  The Uncle owns a Ferrari

4.  The Ferrari is red.

 

So, as you can see, we can store information (knowledge) without remembering word for word the precise details of an object or event.  This process is called proposition encoding.

 

PRODUCTIONS

 

Some knowledge is procedural  (how to, or what to do).  Some theorists have suggested that procedural knowledge is encoded in the form of Productions.

 

For example, productions for riding a bicycle would include IF-THEN rules such as these:

 

1        IF I want to speed up, THEN I must petal faster

2        IF I want to slow down, THEN I must pedal at a slower rate

3        IF I want to stop, THEN I must squeeze the brakes

 

As you can see in this example, in order to do something certain procedures must be followed.  This procedural knowledge is an example of Production encoding.

 

ORGANIZATION OF LONG TERM  MEMORY

 

Contemporary theorists believe we organize information in long term memory through a process of association.

 

To illustrate what I mean, take a piece of paper and try this exercise.  Write down the work

 

 BEACH

 

 

 

Now right under beach list a word that comes to mind after beach and do this for each successive word you list.  Now lets share our lists.

 

Some of your associations might be similar to someone else and others might be unique to you only. 

 

Psychologists believe that all pieces of information stored in long term memory is directly or indirectly related to one another.  This exercise demonstrates organization of information in long term memory through association.

 

 

LONG TERM MEMORY AS A HIERARCHY

 

            Theorists believe that long term memory is organized hierarchal.  General Super-ordinate information (important) is stored at the top of the hierarchy and Subordinate information below at the bottom of the hierarchy.

 

In other words, information is stored in order or most important of relevant to the least important of perhaps irrelevant information.

 

GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE

 

In this chapter we have considered several aspects of the knowledge that we store in long term memory, including the various kinds of knowledge that we are likely to acquire, the variety of ways in which we might encode it, the possible organizational structures that our long-term memories may have overall and the particular mechanisms that we might use.  At this point, lets make some final generalizations about the nature of knowledge.

 

  • we often store information in long term memory in more than one way:

 

  • Most of our knowledge is a summary of our experiences rather than information about specific events:

 

  • In most situations integrated knowledge is more useful than fragmented knowledge:
  • The in-dept study of a few topics is often more beneficial than the superficial study of many topics:

 

 

 

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