Memory (Encoding, Storage, Retrieval)

“Memory” is a single term that reflects a number of different abilities: holding information briefly while working with it (working memory), remembering episodes of one’s life (episodic memory), and our general knowledge of facts of the world (semantic memory), among other types. Remembering episodes involves three processes: encoding information (learning it, by perceiving it and relating it to past knowledge), storing it (maintaining it over time), and then retrieving it (accessing the information when needed). Failures can occur at any stage, leading to forgetting or to having false memories. The key to improving one’s memory is to improve processes of encoding and to use techniques that guarantee effective retrieval. Good encoding techniques include relating new information to what one already knows, forming mental images, and creating associations among information that needs to be remembered. The key to good retrieval is developing effective cues that will lead the rememberer back to the encoded information. Classic mnemonic systems, known since the time of the ancient Greeks and still used by some today, can greatly improve one’s memory abilities.

Learning Objectives

Define and note differences between the following forms of memory: working memory, episodic memory, semantic memory, collective memory.

Describe the three stages in the process of learning and remembering.

Describe strategies that can be used to enhance the original learning or encoding of information.

Describe strategies that can improve the process of retrieval.

Describe why the classic mnemonic device, the method of loci, works so well.

Chapter Author: Kathleen B. McDermott & Henry L. Roediger

Kathleen B. McDermott is Professor of Psychology and Radiology at Washington University in St. Louis. She studies remembering using both behavioral and neuroimaging techniques. She received the Shahin Hashtroudi Memorial Prize for Researcher in Memory from the Association for Psychological Science and the James S. McGuigan Young Investigator Prize from the American Psychological Foundation. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science.

Henry L. Roediger, III is the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis who has spent his career studying learning and memory. He has received the Howard Warren Crosby Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists and the William James Award for Lifetime Achievements in Psychology from the Association of Psychological Science. He also served as President of APS.


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UPEI Introduction to Psychology 1 Copyright © by Philip Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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