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Outline the multi-store model of memory (6 marks)
Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1968, 1971) multi-store model (MSM) describes how information flows through the memory system. The MSM is a representation of how memory works in terms of 3 stores called the sensory register, short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM). It also describes how one information is transferred from one store to another. What makes some memories last and what makes some memories disappear. The model suggests that memory is made up of 3 stores linked by processing and these are the sensory register (SR), short term memory store (STMS) and the long term memory store (LTMS). All stimuli from the environment (e.g. the sound of someone talking) pass in to the SR which is the memory stores for each of our 5 senses, such as vision (iconic store) and hearing (echoic store). This part of memory comprises several registers (sensory memory stores), one for each of our 5 senses. Coding in each store is modality-specific (i.e. it depends on the sense). For example, the store coding for visual information is iconic memory and the store coding acoustically (i.e. for sound) is echoic memory. There are other sensory stores for touch, taste and smell information. Duration of material in the SRs is very brief - less than half a second. The SRs have a very high capacity - for example, over one hundred million cells is one eye, each storing data. Information passes further into the memory system only if you pay attention to it and so attention is the key process. Information in short-term memory (STM) is coded mainly acoustically and lasts about 18 seconds unless it is rehearsed, so the STMS is more of a temporary store. It is also a limited-capacity store, because it can only contain a certain number of ‘things’ before forgetting occurs. The capacity of STM is between 5 and 9 items of information but Cowan’s research suggests it might be more like 5 rather than 9. Maintenance rehearsal occurs when we repeat (rehearse) material to ourselves over and over again. We can keep this information in our STMs as long as we rehearse it and if we rehearse it long enough it passes into long-term memory (LTM). The LTMS is the potentially permanent memory store for information that has been rehearsed for a prolonged time. LTMs are coded mostly semantically (i.e. in terms of meaning). Psychologists believe that its duration may be up to a lifetime. For example, Bahrick et al (1975) found that many of their participants were able to recognise the names and faces of their school classmates almost 50 years after graduating. The capacity of LTM is thought to be practically unlimited. According to the MSM, when we want to recall information from LTM, it has to be transferred back into the STM by a process called retrieval.