[Home]   PSY 101    [Psychology Images]     Class 07:  Memory I: Encoding, Storage, Retrieval
Updated Sept. 09. 2021

Memory Films

You and Your Memory

Bourne Identity (2002)In the 2002 movie, The Bourne Identity, Matt Damon's character, Jason Bourne, finds himself with a host of remarkable abilities to defend himself but doesn't know who he is or why he is being chased by US government agents.

What would it be like for you to wake up some morning here at Le Moyne College with the kind of memory loss of Jason Bourne, that is, you can do various things but you haven't the slightest clue who or where you are? What would that be like?

Here's an online discussion of the same issue posted in August, 2012.

Memory = Central to who we are as human beings and takes many different forms

If any one of these kinds of memory no longer works right, you will be a very different kind of person

Three Processes or Activities involved in Memory

A. Encoding
Example of Levels of Processing Theory adapted from Wikipedia
In a set of experimental studies (Craik & Tulving, 1975) student participants were given a list of 60 words. Each word was presented for 6 seconds on a screen. Participants were asked to pay attention and respond to 1 of 3 kinds of questions about each word. Each kind of question is associated with a particular level of processing:
  • One category of questions (shallow) were about how the word were presented visually (Word: "Is the word shown in CAPITAL LETTERS?").
  • The second category of questions (intermediate) were about the phonemic qualities of the word ("Does the word rhyme with the word "bee"?). 
  • The third category of questions (deep) were presented so that the reader was forced to think about what the word means or what category the word falls in [semantic] ("Can you meet one in the street [a friend]"?)

Example words and questions used

"is the word capitalized?"
"does it rhyme with...?"

"Is it...?"
a way to communicate
a type of weapon
a type of plant
something associated with magic

After the participants had seen all 60 words, they were asked to look through a list of 180 words (60 they had already seen and 120 they had not seen). For each of the 180 words they were asked, "Did you see this word before on the screen?" Here are the results of how well they remembered seeing the words according to the kind of questions they were asked:

Craik & Tulving (1975) Experiment 9 Results

The correct recall of whether the participants had seen the words before was directly related to the level of processing when they first saw (and encoded) the word.

This finding has implications for how a student should study. For example, rather than trying to remember only what a phrase or a word looks like, you ought to ask yourself "what does this mean?" and try to come up with something in your own words.

B. Storage = Maintaining Information in Memory
Memory Types

1. Atkinson & Shiffrin Model of Memory (1971)

          [Atkinson & Shifrin Model]

A. Sensory Memory = Information is maintained in its sensory form (visual, auditory, etc.) for a very brief period of time (ca. 0.25 secs.)
B. Short-term Memory (STM) = a limited capacity story that can maintain unrehearsed information for up to about 20 seconds

2.[Baddeley's Working Memory] Allan Baddeley's "Working Memory" (2001) Model (see diagram)
Working memory = a modular system for the temporary storage and manipulation of information

Four components

Working memory capacity (WMC) = the ability to hold & manipulate information in conscious attention

3. Long-term Memory (LTM)

LTM = an unlimited capacity store that can hold information over lengthy periods of time

  • Vividness ≠ accuracy

C. Retrieval: Getting Information out of Memory
1. Using Cues to Aid Retrieval
2. Reinstating the Context of an Event
3. Relying on Schemas
Schema = an organized cluster of knowledge about a particular event or object abstracted from previous individual instances or experiences.
  • What are the schemas for college professor? high school jock? lawyer? clergy? Army soldier?

Consider what you might think an NFL professional football player looks like. Suppose you saw a 10-second video clip of a player being interviewed in a locker room. What would you tend to remember?

  • We tend to remember facts consistent rather than inconsistent with our schemas
    • You might remember that he was wearing his uniform or carrying his helmet, but would probably not remember that he was holding a copy of a newspaper in his hand.
  • HOWEVER, we tend to remember facts that are clash significantly with our schemas
    • If that football player was holding a bouquet of roses in his hand or putting on a fur coat, we'd probably remember that fact.

4. Reconstructing Memories
Elizabeth Loftus & Car Accident

5. Source Monitoring


Craik, F. I. M., & Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of works in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), 268-294.

This page originally posted on 9/24/07