Primary and Secondary Memory

This week I learned a lot about primary and secondary memory. I had already studied short-term vs. long-term memory in other psychology classes, as well as Ebbinghaus’ nonsense syllables. After reading about the working memory model Ebbinghaus’ theories seem simplistic.

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The cognitive perspective is supposed to be modeled after our understanding of computer architecture, but clearly, our memory processes are far more complex than simple RAM and HD. Computers have caches that allow them to access frequently used data, but it seems like our cognitive system of memory has caches that help it decide which information to store in the first place, and further which information to load to RAM. The descriptive cues that our visual perception pick up are quite extensive when compared to the meaning cues and further awareness. Sensory memory seems to be almost unlimited in capacity, finite in the duration of storage. I am glad that our brain filters out unnecessary static and clutter. I couldn’t imagine trying to write this paper while perceiving everything that is going on in this room. (i.e. dishwasher, stereo, lights, washer, etc…) Going back to the attention section, my filter seems to sit on the other side of descriptive observations. It is when something has meaning and relevance that my attention shifts to it. It is the same with memory. I do not remember the license plate of every person that I saw on the road today, but I do remember my own license plate because it is relevant to me.

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Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal. New York, NY: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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