Chapter 6: Memory

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the two major processes of encoding and the three different ways that we encode sensory information.
  • Describe the three stages of memory storage
  • Describe the three stages of memory storage
  • Describe and distinguish between implicit and explicit memory and semantic and episodic memory
  • Explain retrieval cues and define recall, recognition, and relearning
  • Explain the brain functions involved in memory; recognize the roles of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum in memory
  • Compare and contrast the two anterograde and retrograde amnesia
  • Explain encoding failure and give examples of common memory errors
  • Describe the unreliability of eyewitness testimony
  • Explain the misinformation effect
  • Recognize and apply memory-enhancing strategies, including mnemonics, rehearsal, chunking, and peg-words
A photograph shows a camera and a pile of photographs.

Figure 1. Photographs can trigger our memories and bring past experiences back to life. (credit: modification of work by Cory Zanker)

We may be top-notch learners, but if we don’t have a way to store what we’ve learned, what good is the knowledge we’ve gained?

Take a few minutes to imagine what your day might be like if you could not remember anything you had learned. You would have to figure out how to get dressed. What clothing should you wear, and how do buttons and zippers work? You would need someone to teach you how to brush your teeth and tie your shoes. Who would you ask for help with these tasks, since you wouldn’t recognize the faces of these people in your house? Wait . . . is this even your house? Uh oh, your stomach begins to rumble and you feel hungry. You’d like something to eat, but you don’t know where the food is kept or even how to prepare it. Oh dear, this is getting confusing. Maybe it would be best just go back to bed. A bed . . . what is a bed?

We have an amazing capacity for memory, but how, exactly, do we process and store information? Are there different kinds of memory, and if so, what characterizes the different types? How, exactly, do we retrieve our memories? And why do we forget? This module will explore these questions as we learn about memory.