Memory Processing

What is primary memory?  What are the characteristics of primary memory?

 Primary memory refers to short term memory (STM).  This is where information is stored temporarily until it has been decided to retain or forget the information.  Basically, we hold information that we need in the moment and “forget” it.  Information that is to be retained gets transferred to secondary, or long-term memory where it is stored for an infinite amount of time.  Some distinguishing characteristics include the amount of information that can be held here, which is typically seven items, plus or minus two (5-9 items) and the ways in which information is processed for storage (coding).  Additionally, primary memory is known for the ways in which information is retained, forgotten and retrieved.


 What is the process of memory from perception to retrieval?  What happens when the process is compromised?

 The process of memory begins with perception.  This is information taken in from the environment.  At the point of perception, information is taken in and stored in the sensory memory for a short period of time until we take the information we actually need and send it to the primary memory.  The primary memory sorts through, manipulates and codes the information into secondary memory because it brings on an emotional response or relates the information with previously stored memories.  Secondary memory stores the information for an unlimited amount of time in order for the retrieval process to occurr.  The process of retrieval is when a memory must be transferred from the secondary memory to the primary memory in order for a recall of information to take place. If the process is compromised the individual may experience false memories of the event that took place.  The individual may also experience a mixture of memories that may lead the individual to doubt their memory or experience all together.  The individual may also experience the inability to recall information that was stored.


 Is it possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable?  Why or why not?  What factors may affect the reliability of one’s memory?

 Yes it is possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable.  Many factors come in to play with the retrieval process.  A memory gets stored, but over time, an individual matures, meaning their ideals and beliefs change.  Therefore, when retrieving a memory a peroid of time later, the individual may experience a distortion in the actual memory.  Another factor leading to distortions would be how a question is asked.  For instance, if you ask a question, the individual replies.  If you ask the same question, but with different wording, the response may be different.  In order for a memory to be easily and readily accessible, the individual needs to review the information, as with classwork.  If proper review does not take place, the memory remains incomplete which in turn causes unreliable retrieval or the tip of the tongue phenomena.




Galotti, K. M. (2014). Cognitive Psychology: In and Out of the Laboratory, (5th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database..


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