Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory

Memory has an extensive history within the topic of psychology, and you will find a lot of research, old and new, that explores the complex nature of it all. How we process, store, and then use information has been a hot topic in the history of psychology, as ultimately, it has a lot of influence on who we are and how we behave.

Memory theorists

There are three main sections of human memory: sensory, short-term, and long-term memory. We have a tremendous capacity for what we can store and remember. However, there are also faults in our memories. They can be altered or changed by things in our environment or our expectations via schemas.

Memory is the faculty of our brain that encodes, stores, and retrieves information.

Theorists and researchers have investigated and experimented on many aspects of human memory to learn more about how it works and what affects it. Many theorists and researchers have provided valuable knowledge to the study of human memory, starting with Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909). He was the first to study memory experimentally.

Even though this research was unprecedented in memory research, carefully developed methods and measurements have stood the test of time. Since then, much research has been conducted in this field. Many have researched and experimented on various aspects of human memory, some studying its intricacies and some examining it more holistically.

Some of the most famous theories are:

  1. Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), introduced the Multi-Store Model of Memory.
  2. Baddeley and Hitch (1974), proposed the Working Memory Model.
  3. Tulving (1967), identified the different types of long-term memories.

Famous psychology memory experiments

There are many classic and contemporary studies in Psychology that various memory theorists have conducted. Some of the most famous ones will be briefly mentioned here, and then explained in greater detail in their respective sections. These famous psychology memory studies include:

  1. Working memory model: The influence of acoustic and semantic similarity on long-term memory for word sequences, by Baddeley (1966b).
  2. Semantic knowledge in patient HM and other patients with bilateral medial and lateral temporal lobe lesions, by Schmolck et al. (2002).
  3. Reconstruction from memory in naturalistic environments, by Steyvers and Hemmer (2012).
  4. Developmental pattern of digit span in the Spanish population, by Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012).

Memory recall experiments in psychology

The following section focuses on the classic studies in recall experiments in psychology.

Baddeley (1966b) — Working memory model

Baddeley and Hitch put forward their Working Memory Model in 1974, which was a significant contribution to Psychology and Memory research. However, even earlier, in 1966, Baddeley conducted experiments for his research on the influence of acoustic and semantic similarity of word sequences on long-term memory. This was one of the main human memory research studies that formed the Working Memory Model.

Baddeley 1966b had three independent variables:

  1. Semantically similar or dissimilar words.
  2. Acoustically similar or dissimilar words.
  3. Performance before delay period and after the delay period

The dependent variable was the number of correct words recalled in order. The researchers divided 72 participants into four groups:

  1. Acoustically similar words
  2. Acoustically dissimilar words
  3. Semantically similar words
  4. Semantically dissimilar words

Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory Semantic Words Research Memory Classic StudySmarterExamples of semantically similar words, commons.wikimedia.org

The researchers tested all four groups' performance before AND after the delay period. First, the participants did the task 4 times. They had an interference task during a 15min break. Then, the researchers tested how many words in the correct order they could recall. Here are the results of the study:

  • The semantically similar group performed better than the semantically dissimilar group.
  • The acoustically similar group performed better than the acoustically dissimilar group. However, the difference was slight.
  • The semantically similar group performed better than the acoustically similar group.

Memory research studies

After classic studies, let's examine some more recent studies into memory research.

Schmolck et al. (2002) — Semantic knowledge

Patient H.M. suffered from epileptic seizures. As a treatment, his bilateral medial temporal lobes were removed, including the hippocampus. After the treatment, H.M. couldn't form new long-term memories, which led to the conclusion that the hippocampus was essential for memory formation.

Schmolk et al. (2002) wanted to find out about semantic knowledge in H.M. and patients with lesions or damage in the same location (of brain area). His research design included an Independent Variable (IV) of damaged/lesioned brain region (naturally occurring IV), and a Dependent Variable (DV) of scores on semantic memory tests.

Semantic memories are long-term memories that include our knowledge about facts, ideas, concepts, and events. These do not include memories tied to personal experiences.

There were six participants and eight control group members. Two participants had damage to the hippocampus. Three participants had large lesions of the medial temporal lobe and other lesions of lateral temporal cortex. One participant (H.M.) had medial temporal lobe damage. The researchers used MRI and CT scans to find the location of the damage.

Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory brain scan memory research StudySmarterBrain scan images, pixabay.com

Participants had to complete nine tests with line drawings of 24 animals and 24 objects, and their names. First, these animals and objects were subcategorised, e.g. into six land animals. Then, the participants had four additional tests. These tests measured different aspects of the patients' semantic knowledge in depth.

Here are the results of the study:

  • The hippocampus patients and the control group had similar performances.
  • On most tests, the three patients with medial temporal lobe (MTL) damage had mild to moderate impairment.
  • H.M. performed better than the MTL+ group, but not other patients with only hippocampus damage.
  • There was a correlation between the extent of lateral temporal cortex damage and test performance.

These results suggested that damage to the lateral temporal cortex causes impairments in semantic knowledge. Based on this, we can conclude that semantic and episodic memories are located in separate brain parts.

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012)

Digit span tests have been used in memory research for a long time. The measurement got more specific when Baddeley and Hitch (1974) introduced the Working Memory Model.

Jacobs (1887) conducted one of the first studies of digit span. He found that adults have an average digit span of 9.3, and an average letter span of 7.3.

The digit span test measures how many digits a person can hold in their short-term memory at a time. The phonological loop retains these digits in short-term memory.

Miller (1956) established the famous capacity of 7 ± 2 items at a time for short-term memory in his research.

The theory behind the digit spans was that children learn to process information faster as they grow up. Consequentially, digit span should increase with age. Near the age of six, children rehearse information in their phonological loop to keep it in their short-term memory. As a result, their digit span increases, and memory improves.

Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory memory research studies StudySmarter

Children aged 5-17, freepik.com

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) wanted to determine how the phonological loop develops as children grow older. They recruited 570 Spanish children between the ages of 5 and 17 for their study. The researchers administered the digit span test. The aim was to determine the children's ability to retain information in their short-term memory and compare it to British children.

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil found that as children grew older, their digit span increased. Also, their working memory continued to develop up to when they were 17 years old, compared to the age of 15 in British children. They concluded that the phonological loop appears to be affected by age.

Steyvers and Hemmer (2012)

The researchers wanted to investigate the interaction between episodic memories and prior knowledge (semantic memories). They investigated how prior knowledge would be used to help assist the reconstruction of memories for images of everyday scenes.

Phase 1 involved establishing what a person expects in a scene based on prior knowledge. Participants had to name objects they'd expect to find in five naturalistic scenes, e.g. an office. Then, they had to enter the items into a computer as a list for one minute per scene. Afterwards, a separate group observed 25 images of five scenes. They had to recall objects they saw.

Phase 2 involved 49 new participants who were shown ten of the images used in the previous phase (from those five scenes) for either two or ten seconds. The aim of this phase was to test prior/semantic knowledge and episodic knowledge, respectively. The study results revealed that:

  • incorrect recall of items that were expected to be in the scenes was 9 percent,
  • incorrect recall of items not expected to be in the scene was 18 percent,
  • average output was 7.75 items for the two-second condition,
  • average output was 10.05 items for the ten-second condition,
  • overall, when scenes represented what the participants expected, memory was above or around 80 percent accurate.

Based on these results, semantic knowledge can help accurately recall episodic memories of naturalistic settings. This way, more cognitive resources are available for other tasks. The study itself ensured the results had high ecological validity (as it used naturalistic environments), and the researchers controlled other factors that could affect their experiment.

As they were in a laboratory setting, the research was also reliable. However, this laboratory setting affected the initial idea of having high ecological validity. Even though this was a good representation of a natural setting, the research was conducted in a laboratory.


Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory - Key Takeaways

  • In Psychology, researchers have investigated and experimented on many aspects of human memory. This leads to a better understanding of how our memory works and what affects it.
  • Classic memory research studies include Baddeley (1966b), Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), and Tulving (1967).
  • Contemporary memory research studies include Schmolck et al. (2002), Steyvers and Hemmer (2012), Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012).
  • Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) wanted to discover how the phonological loop and digit span test performance develops as children grow older.
  • Steyvers and Hemmer (2012) wanted to investigate the interaction between episodic memories and prior knowledge (semantic memories).

Frequently Asked Questions about Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory

Baddeley and Hitch (1974) for the working memory model.

Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) for the multi-store memory model, including short- and long-term memory, and ideas about information processing, encoding, storage and retrieval, capacity and duration.

Tulving (1972) for the explanation of long-term memory – episodic and semantic memory.

Bartlett (1932) for reconstructive memory, including schema theory. 


  1. Baddeley (1966b) Working memory model: The influence of acoustic and semantic similarity on long-term memory for word sequences. 
  2. Schmolck et al. (2002) Semantic knowledge in patient HM and other patients with bilateral medial and lateral temporal lobe lesions. 
  3. Steyvers and Hemmer (2012) Reconstruction from memory in naturalistic environments. 
  4. Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) Developmental pattern of digit span in the Spanish population.

Memory research is a type of research conducted to understand the characteristics and nature of memory processes and systems. 

Baddeley and Hitch (1974) - the working memory model.

Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) - the multi-store model of memory, including short- and long-term memory, and ideas about information processing, encoding, storage and retrieval, capacity and duration.

Tulving (1972) - the explanation of long-term memory – episodic and semantic memory.

Bartlett (1932) - reconstructive memory, including schema theory. 


Classic and Contemporary research:

  1. Baddeley (1966b) Working memory model: The influence of acoustic and semantic similarity on long-term memory for word sequences. 
  2. Schmolck et al. (2002) Semantic knowledge in patient HM and other patients with bilateral medial and lateral temporal lobe lesions. 
  3. Steyvers and Hemmer (2012) Reconstruction from memory in naturalistic environments. 
  4. Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) Developmental pattern of digit span in a Spanish population.

Memory research was revolutionised in the 1950s and 1960s when different experiments were conducted investigating short-term memory and its coding, capacity, and duration. The first memory model was The Multi-Store Model of memory (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968). Later, an improved model came along: the Working Memory Model (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974)

Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850-1909) was the first to study memory in an experimental way. 

Final Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory Quiz

Question

What does bilateral mean?

Show answer

Answer

Front side of the brain.

Show question

Question

What type of memories was Schmolck et al. (2002) investigating?

Show answer

Answer

Hippocampus memories.

Show question

Question

Which of the following variables Schmolck et al. (2002) investigated is the dependent variable?

Show answer

Answer

Scores on the semantic LTM tests Schmolck et al. created.

Show question

Question

Which of the following variables Schmolck et al. (2002) investigated is the independent variable? 

Show answer

Answer

Scores on the semantic LTM tests Schmolck et al. created.

Show question

Question

What is a lesion? 

Show answer

Answer

Lesions are brain regions damaged usually due to injury or disease.

Show question

Question

What is semantic memory?

Show answer

Answer

Semantic memories are long-term memories that do not stem from personal experiences, i.e., facts and knowledge we acquire.

Show question

Question

Which of the following does not describe the procedure used in Schmolck et al. (2002)?

Show answer

Answer

Natural experiment.

Show question

Question

Why did Schmolck et al. (2002) use MRIs?

Show answer

Answer

MRI scans were used to ensure that the damaged brain regions were only related to the ones the researchers were interested in. 

Show question

Question

What are the strengths of the study?

Show answer

Answer

The strengths of the study are:

  • High reliability.
  • High internal validity.
  • It has practical applications, such as helping us understand more about semantic theories.

Show question

Question

What are the weaknesses of the study?

Show answer

Answer

The weaknesses of the study are:

  • Low generalisability.
  • Potentially could have breached ethical issues.
  • Low ecological validity.

Show question

Question

Which statements do not match how patient HM performed?

Show answer

Answer

Worse than the MTL+ group.

Show question

Question

What was the correlation found between mistakes made in tests and brain damage?

Show answer

Answer

A positive correlation was found between mistakes made and the amount of brain damage the participants had.

Show question

Question

What type of tests did Schmolck et al. (2002) use?

Show answer

Answer

Self-constructed.

Show question

Question

How did patients with damage near the hippocampus do in the semantic knowledge tests? 

Show answer

Answer

Patients with damage near the hippocampus normally performed on the semantic knowledge tests.

Show question

Question

What did Schmolck et al. conclude?

Show answer

Answer

The findings indicate impairments in semantic knowledge are related to damage to the lateral temporal cortex. This finding implies different brain parts are responsible for semantic and episodic long-term memory.

Show question

Question

What was the aim of the Baddeley 1966b research? 

Show answer

Answer

The aim of the research was to see if semantic or acoustic similar words could be remembered better in the long-term memory store. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following best describes how information is encoded in the short-term memory store?

Show answer

Answer

Acoustic

Show question

Question

Which of the following best describes how information is encoded in the long-term memory store?


Show answer

Answer

Semantic

Show question

Question

What was the reason that Baddelley used interference tasks in his experiment?

Show answer

Answer

The purpose of the interference task was to make sure that memory recall was based on the long-term rather than the short-term memory store. 

Show question

Question

What did Baddeley conclude from his research?

Show answer

Answer

Baddeley 1966b concluded:

  • The long-term memory store encodes information semantically.
  •  The long-term memory store may be able to encode information acoustically. 
    • But, this information will have less accurate recall than information encoded semantically. 

Show question

Question

Which group performed the best in the forgetting test? 

Show answer

Answer

Acoustically similar

Show question

Question

In the first to third trial did the acoustically similar or acoustically dissimilar group have a higher accuracy percentage?

Show answer

Answer

Acoustically similar 

Show question

Question

Which group had higher accuracy? 

Show answer

Answer

Semantically similar 

Show question

Question

What are the strengths of the study? 

Show answer

Answer

The strengths of Baddeley 1966b are:

  •  high reliability
  • high internal validity
  • applications for future research carried out by Baddeley and Hitch

Show question

Question

What are the weaknesses of the study? 

Show answer

Answer

The weaknesses of Baddeley 1966b are: 

  • ethnocentric
  • non-generalisable
  • low ecological validity.

Show question

Question

How many and how was the sample collected? 

Show answer

Answer

72 men and women students were recruited using an opportunity sample. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following was what Baddeley (1966b) measuring?

Show answer

Answer

Accuracy when recalling words

Show question

Question

Which group would have been tested with the following words "Small, Whole, Eat, Dog"?

Show answer

Answer

Semantically dissimilar group

Show question

Question

Which group would have been tested with the following words "Cat, Pat, Fat, Hat"?


Show answer

Answer

Acoustically similar words 

Show question

Question

What did the forgetting test involve? 

Show answer

Answer

Participants were tested on the first two levels of the IV for four trials. After this participants were then given a 15-minute break (did an interference test during this). After this break, all of the participants had to recall the order of the words.

Show question

Question

How was the digit span test developed?

Show answer

Answer

  • The digit span test was developed based on early memory research of Ebbinghaus in the nineteenth century. 
    • Ebbinghaus used a nonsense syllable span procedure and measured how many sounds he could immediately recall.
  • Later, memory researchers like Joseph Jacobs (1887) adapted and standardised this procedure. 
    • Jacobs recorded the number of digits that can be recalled in a sequence.
    • He aimed to test how many items we can store in short-term memory. 

Show question

Question

What are the components of Baddeley's Working Memory Model?

Show answer

Answer

According to Baddeley and Hitch's (1974) Working Memory Model, the short-term memory store consists of the central executive, visuospatial sketchpad, and phonological loop

Show question

Question

What is the digit span test procedure?


Show answer

Answer

  • The experimenter presents a sequence of random digits to a participant.
      • like: 4723
  • If they can successfully repeat a sequence of the four digits back, the experimenter will present them with a longer, five-digit sequence until the participant can no longer accurately recall the sequence.

Show question

Question

How does the digit span change across the lifespan?

Show answer

Answer

In early childhood, we observe lower digit spans that increase throughout adolescence.

Show question

Question

What does the digit span measure?

Show answer

Answer

The digit span test measures the capacity of short-term memory, specifically the phonological loop.

Show question

Question

What is the capacity of the phonological loop for a typical five-year-old and a typical adult?


Show answer

Answer

  • A typical five-year-old can only hold around 3.7 digits in short-term memory, according to the study of Sebastián and Hernández-Gil. 
  • A typical adult can hold 7 (+/-2) items in their short-term memory.

Show question

Question

How does old age affect short-term memory?


Show answer

Answer

Old age appears to significantly affect working memory.

  • Healthy elderly participants have a decreased digit span (similar to a seven-year-old). 

Show question

Question

Give an explanation for the difference in digit spans between Spanish and English developmental research.

Show answer

Answer

The difference could be due to the language used


The words for Spanish digits tend to be longer than those for English. Longer words can’t be rehearsed as many times as shorter words using inner speech

  • The difference in digit span only appeared after the age of 6, when children start to use inner speech to rehearse information, supporting the word length explanation for the differences. 

Show question

Question

What was the aim of the Sebastián and Hernández-Gil's (2012) study?

Show answer

Answer

Sebastián and Hernández-Gil (2012) aimed to investigate the developmental patterns of short-term memory across 5 to 17-year-olds in a Spanish population.

Show question

Question

Why did Sebastián and Hernández-Gil decide to exclude participants with hearing, reading or writing impairments from their study of the developmental patterns of digit span?


Show answer

Answer

The ability to recall digits from short-term memory relies on the phonological loop component of the working memory. The phonological loop stores verbal information; therefore, cognitive impairments can affect its capacity.

Show question

Question

What is the central executive responsible for?


Show answer

Answer

The central executive is responsible for allocating attention to other components and performing cognitive tasks. 

Show question

Question

What component of the Working Memory Model is tested by the digit span task?


Show answer

Answer

The digit span task tests specifically the capacity of the phonological loop component of the Working Memory Model.

Show question

Question

What was removed from patient HM's brain?

Show answer

Answer

The medial temporal lobe which included the hippocampus was removed during H.Ms surgery.

Show question

Question

Why did HM undergo surgery? 

Show answer

Answer

HM had a lobotomy to alleviate severe epileptic seizures. 

Show question

Question

Which of the following has been found to lay a crucial role in memory? 

Show answer

Answer

Hippocampus 

Show question

Question

What was HM asked to do in the mirror star tracing task? 

Show answer

Answer

H.M was asked to trace a star.  In this task, participants cannot look directly at their hands. Instead, they have to look into a mirror to see their hand.

Show question

Question

Which of the following tests measured visual and motor skills? 

Show answer

Answer

Mirror star tracing task 

Show question

Question

Who was the main researcher that investigated H.M?

Show answer

Answer

Milner was the main researcher who investigated H.M.

Show question

Question

Is the following statement true, "H.M's perception remained intact"?

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

What type of amnesia did HM develop? 

Show answer

Answer

Retrograde amnesia 

Show question

More about Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory
60%

of the users don't pass the Classic and Contemporary Research into Memory quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.