Many cognitive psychologists believe that human memory has three components. Describe each of these components, including both its capacity and its duration. Explain how students must process information so that it arrives at the third and final component.
The first component is the sensory register. The sensory register is the component of memory that holds the information you receive-input-in more or less its original, uuencoded form. Probably everything that your body is capable of seeing, hearing, and otherwise sensing is stored in the sensory register. In other words, the sensory register has a large capacity; it can hold a great deal of information at one time. However, information stored in the sensory register doesn't last very long. Visual information-what you see-probably lasts about a second. To keep information for any time at all, then, we need to move it to working memory.
How does information move from the sensory register into working memory? Many theorists believe that attention plays a key role here: Whatever people pay attention to mentally moves information into working memory. Anything in the sensory register that does not get a person's attention disappears from the memory system. Unfortunately, people can attend to only a very small amount of information at any one time. In other words, attention has a limited capacity. For example, if you are in a room where several conversations are occurring at once, you can usually attend to-and therefore can learn from-only one of those conversations; this phenomenon is sometimes called the cocktail party phenomenon.
Working memory, sometimes known as short-term-memory, is the component of memory where new information is held while it is mentally processed; in other words, it is a temporary "holding bin" for new information. Working memory is also where much of our thinking, or cognitive processing, occurs. It is where we try to make sense of a lecture, understand a textbook passage, or solve a problem.
Generally speaking, working memory is the component that probably does most of the "work" of the memory system. It has two characteristics that are particularly worth noting: a short duration and a limited capacity. Short-term memory only lasts about five to twenty seconds, and does not hold much. Sometimes, in order to retain information, we repeat the information over and over again to ourselves. This process, known as maintenance rehearsal, keeps information in working memory for as long as you're willing to talk to yourself. But once you stop, the information disappears.
The process of storing new information in long-term memory usually involves drawing on "old" information already stored there; in other words, it necessitates using prior knowledge. Long-term memory is the final component of the human memory system. This component holds information for a relatively long period of time-perhaps a day, a week, a month, a year, or one's entire lifetime. Long-term memory has three characteristics that are especially worth noting: a long duration, an essentially unlimited capacity, and a rich network of interconnections.
Information stored in long-term memory lasts much longer than information stored in working memory. Some psychologists believe that information may slowly "weaken" and possibly disappear from long-term memory. Others instead believe that, once information is stored in long-term memory, it remains there permanently but may in some cases be extremely difficult to retrieve. The exact duration of long-term-memory has never been determined.
Long-term-memory seems to be capable of holding as much information as an individual needs to store there-there is probably no such thing as a person "running out of room." In fact, for reasons that you will discover shortly, the more information already stored in long-term memory, the easier it is to learn new things.
Theorists have discovered that the information stored in long-term-memory is organized and interconnected to some extent.
cal1966. Thus, we can say that whilst this represents a progression, in the end we have come no closer to any "real" knowledge.