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Psychology: Short-Term and Working Memory Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 16th, 2021

Modern psychologists take great interest in the peculiarities of human memory and its types. At first, it is necessary to introduce the main concepts related to the storage and retrieval of information. First of all, one can speak about working memory. It can be understood as a small amount of data or information that the mind holds readily accessible to do some cognitive tasks such as calculations (Cowan, 2010, p. 447). This notion is very similar to the concept of short-term memory, but they should not be confused. The thing is that the term short-term memory is used to describe the capacity of the mind to hold a small piece of information within a very short period, approximately 20 seconds (Emmanuel, Omekara, & Usoro, 2007, p. 128). Nevertheless, the second term does not imply that an individual will use this information to cope with some mental tasks. Finally, it is important to mention long-term memory can be explained as continuous retention of information and the ability to retrieve it. These concepts are important for the discussion of memory.

The test that I took was supposed to evaluate the short-term verbal memory of a person. At first, I had to look through a list of words that could be nouns, adjectives, verbs, and so forth. They were related to various areas of human activity. When working on this assignment, I needed to tell whether a certain word produced positive or negative associations. This is why each word had to be evaluated on the four-level scale, namely 1) very pleasant; 2) mildly pleasant; 3) mildly unpleasant, and 4) very unpleasant (Memory Loss Online, 2012, unpaged). During the second part of the test, I had to recollect the words from the list. I managed to recall 29 words of 40. During the third part of the task, I had to look at forty pairs of words. Each pair contained a word that was presented in the first part of the test (Memory Loss Online, 2012, unpaged). In turn, the second word of the pair was a new one (Memory Loss Online, 2012, unpaged). In this case, my task was to identify the word that was mentioned before. I achieved an almost perfect score; in particular, my result was 39 out of 40. These are the main aspects of the test that attracted my attention.

Additionally, psychologists pay close attention to the encoding of data. When memorizing, people use various strategies to retain various types of information. For instance, they can focus on the acoustic properties of the word, visual images that are associated with it, and its meaning (Pastötter et al 2011, p. 287). This is why one can distinguish visual, acoustic, and semantic encoding. Very often people use three types of encoding to memorize information. Moreover, one should speak about such a concept of retrieval of information. To cope with this task, a person has to rely on visual cues, associations, or mnemonics to recollect certain words, numbers, names, dates, and so forth. While doing this assignment, I also relied on the various cues. For instance, when I was doing the test, I tried to visualize some of the words, for example, ivory, sunset, or dagger (Memory Loss Online, 2012, unpaged). Furthermore, I thought about the associations that the words produced. This strategy helped to recollect these words presented during the test. On the whole, this test has only confirmed my belief that the work of memory can be improved if a person can use different mnemonic techniques.

It should be noted that the retrieval of information depends on several factors. First of all, one should mention that information can be more easily encoded and retrieved when it is related to a certain topic or theme like medicine, literature, psychology, and so forth. In other words, pieces of information should be semantically related to one another (Jones, Marsh, & Hughes, 2012, p. 905). While I was working on this test, I noticed that the words belonged to various categories, topics, and areas of human activities. Moreover, they represented various parts of speech such as nouns, adjectives, or verbs. So, there was no apparent connection between them. This is why it was difficult to memorize them. Secondly, researchers believe that the ease of retrieval depends on the presence or absence of various distracters such as sudden noise (Jones, Marsh, & Hughes, 2012, p. 915). When I was doing the test, I had to work in a noisy environment, and at first, it was difficult for me to concentrate. So, this assignment showed me that retrieval of information could be strongly affected by the external environment. Moreover, this test demonstrated to me that I had to improve my techniques of memorizing and retrieving information.

On the whole, these examples indicate that memory is a very complex mechanism that can function in different ways and its work can be dependent on a variety of factors such as the type of information, external environment, and or the ability of a person to encode information. The discussion of such concepts as short-term or working memory is important for understanding people’s perception of the world and their learning.

Reference List

Cowan, N. (2010). Multiple Concurrent Thoughts: The Meaning and Developmental Neuropsychology of Working Memory. Developmental Neuropsychology, 35(5), 447-474.

Emmanuel, E., Omekara, C. O., & Usoro, A. (2007). Application of Design and Analysis of 2³ Factorial Experiments in Determining Some Factors influencing Recall Ability in Short term Memory. International Journal Of Statistics & Systems, 2(2), 127-132.

Jones, D. M., Marsh, J. E., & Hughes, R. W. (2012). Retrieval from memory: Vulnerable or inviolable?. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 38(4), 905-922.

Memory Loss Online. (2012). Memory Self-Tests. Web.

Pastötter, B., Schicker, S., Niedernhuber, J., & Bäuml, K. T. (2011). Retrieval during learning facilitates subsequent memory encoding. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition, 37(2), 287-297.

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