1. What is primary memory? What are the characteristics of primary memory?
It has long been noted that it is possible to hold some information in mind for a brief period of time. In the late 1950s, researchers began to think that such brief memories might be supported by the primary memory. The three characteristics of primary memory are: forgetting (caused by both interference and decay); the format in which the information is coded (in terms of sound, visual appearance, and meaning); and the amount of information that can be held, or capacity (which depends on the type of information).
Much (but not all) of the forgetting from primary memory occurs due to interference. Proactive interference occurs when older learning interferes with new learning. In retroactive interference, later learning interferes with earlier learning.
It appears that material can be coded in primary memory in at least three ways: visuospatially, acoustically (in terms of sound), and semantically (in terms of meaning). There is also evidence for a primary memory component that can store tactile memories—that is, how things feel on the skin—but not much research has been directed toward that representation (Harris, Miniussi, Harris, & Diamond, 2002; Romo & Salinas, 2003).
Around the turn of the 20th century, researchers began to use the digit span task to measure the capacity of primary memory.
2. What is the process of memory from perception to retrieval? What happens when the process is compromised?
The perception of primary memory occurs in manifold ways. Much of it consists of our knowledge of what words mean, about the ways they are related to one another and the rules of communication and thinking. This kind of memory, which makes use of language possible, is semantic memory; while primary memory can also consist of episodic memory which is organized with respect to when certain events happened in our lives. It is a record of what happened to us and does not lend itself to drawing of inferences. The storing of primary memory occurs in various ways. One of them is organizing and arranging the input so that it fits into existing long-term memory categories, grouping in some logical memory, or arranging in some other way that makes “sense”.
The organizational encoding may be inherent in the input itself or it may be supplied by individuals as they learn and remember new things. Imagery also plays an important role in storing of information into memory. One explanation for the importance of stimulus imagery in learning and storing information to memory, is that a concrete stimulus (one, for which, imagery is readily evoked in mind) provides a conceptual peg on which responses can be hung. During encoding, the to-be-remembered information, especially if it is a complex life event or something you have read, is modified. Certain details are accentuated, the material me be simplified; which is called constructive processes. One important constructive process is encoding only the gist or meaning of complex information such as what we have read in a newspaper, magazine, or book.
3. Is it possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable? Why or why not? What factors may affect the reliability of one’s memory?
Successful retrieval of a memory depends largely on the cues available at the time of retrieval. But sometimes, when cues will not help; the memory is simply lost. The idea that memories simply fade away with time corresponds to our everyday experience, but it is difficult to prove. It is more certain that new things you learn can interfere with things that you already know, thereby causing forgetting. The idea that memories simply fade away with time corresponds to our everyday experience, but it is difficult to prove. It is more certain that new things you learn can interfere with things that you already know, thereby causing forgetting. Forgetting can occur because (a) you don’t have the right cue for retrieval, (b) the association between the cue and the target memory is compromised in some way, or (c) the target memory itself is lost. There is some evidence supporting each mechanism. We briefly consider the possibility that some memories are never lost.
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