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Multi-Store Model of Memory

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Multi-Store Model of Memory

Having memories is a natural part of being human. We all have them, whether they are positive or negative, short or long term, and we acquire them through our experiences throughout our lives. But how do these experiences get stored as memory? Several models were proposed, but here we will outline and describe the multi-store model of memory (MSM).

The multi-store model of memory, also known as the modal model, was proposed by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin in 1968. This is one of the earliest models of memory. The MSM describes the flow between three store components: ie., the process of placing newly acquired information into memory. Each of the store components has its own characteristics.

What are the characteristics of the components in the multi-store model of memory?

There are three variables that can be used to describe the stores that information passes through: capacity, coding, and duration.

First, capacity refers to a measure of the amount of information that can be stored in memory.

Second, coding refers to the way information from the environment is changed so that memory can be stored. Information entering the brain via the senses is stored in various forms. There are three main ways in which information can be encoded:

  1. Visual coding refers to transferring information that you see to memory, for example, reading a map.
  2. Acoustic coding refers to transferring information that you hear to memory, for example, listening to podcasts.
  3. Semantic coding refers to transferring meaning that you understand to memory, for example, the concept of infinity in maths.

Last, duration refers to the measure of how long the information is available for retrieval or lasts in the memory store.

What are the components of the multi-store model of memory?

The three-store components of the multi-store memory model include sensory register (SR), short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM). Each store is a unitary structure. Memory is formed sequentially, and information passes from one store component in the model to the next in a fixed and linear order.

Multi-Store Model of Memory Information flow StudySmarterInformation flow in the multi-store model, Henry Lo, StudySmarter Originals

Sensory register

The sensory register (SR) is the first store in the MSM, which includes information from all five senses. Information is coded differently according to the senses, so a total of five stores are in the sensory register. The main stores include iconic memory (visual information is coded visually) and echoic memory (auditory information is coded acoustically). The capacity of the sensory register is very large as it includes all sensory experiences. Sensory registers have a very brief duration, only lasting around ¼ to ½ a second. Information passes from the sensory register to short term memory only when attention is paid to establish the linear sequence.

Short-term memory

Short-term memory (STM) has a limited duration. Information in STM will quickly decay if not rehearsed. Also, STM has a limited capacity of only 7 +/- 2 items; information will be displaced by new information entering STM. Information in the STM is coded mainly acoustically. Rehearsal is repeated to keep information in STM. This process is called maintenance rehearsal. Further prolonged rehearsal (a long period of rehearsal) will move information from STM to long-term memory (LTM) to establish the linear sequence.

Long-term memory

Long-term memory (LTM) has potentially unlimited capacity and duration. Information in LTM is mainly coded semantically. Obtaining information from LTM entails the process of information travelling back through STM, known as retrieval. Forgetting can occur if you cannot locate the memory in LTM or if the memory was never made permanent in the first place.

Sensory register (SM)
Short term memory (STM)
Long term memory (LTM)
Encoding
Different stores for each sense
Mainly acoustic
Mainly semantic
Capacity
Very larger capacity (Included all sensory experience)
7 +/- 2 items
Unlimited
Duration
¼ to ½ second
0-18 seconds
Lifetime

Multi-store model of memory - Key takeaways

  • The MSM consists of 3 memory stores: sensory register (SR), short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).
  • Each memory store has its own characteristic: 1) encoding, 2) capacity, and 3) duration.
  • Each memory store has a unitary structure.

  • Through attention, information passes from the sensory register to short-term memory.

  • In MSM, memory is formed sequentially, and information passes from one store component in the model to the next in a fixed and linear order.

  • Through maintenance rehearsal, the information stays in short-term memory.

  • Through prolonged rehearsal, information passes from short-term memory to long-term memory.

  • Through retrieval, information passes back from long-term memory to short-term memory.

Frequently Asked Questions about Multi-Store Model of Memory

The multi-store model is an explanation of memory presented by Atkinson and Shiffrin in which information is transmitted across three unitary (independent) memory stores in a linear sequence.

The multi-store model of memory was created by Atkinson and Shiffrin in 1968

The multi-store memory model starts with environmental stimuli. The sensory register (SR) is the first store component in the MSM, which includes information from your eyes, your ears, and the other senses.

The three-store components of the multi-store memory model include sensory register (SR), short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM). Each store is a unitary structure. Memory is formed sequentially, and information passes from one store component in the model to the next in a fixed and linear order.

Final Multi-Store Model of Memory Quiz

Question

What are the 3 main store components in MSM?

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The three main stores are sensory register (SR), short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).

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How is the information processed in MSM?


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Memory is formed sequentially, and information passes from one store component in the model to the next in a fixed and linear order.

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What are the 3 different characteristics of each store component?


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They are 1) encoding, 2) capacity, 3) duration.

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How does information transfer from SR to STM?


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When attention is paid to something in the environment, it is then converted to short-term memory (STM).

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How can information stay in STM?


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Maintenance rehearsal is repeated to keep information in STM.

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How does information transfer from STM to LTM?


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Prolonged rehearsal (a long period of rehearsal) will create long-term memory (LTM).

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What will happen if information in STM is not rehearsed?


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If rehearsal does not occur, information will be forgotten and lost from STM through the processes of displacement or decay.

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Describe the capacity, duration and manner in which information is encoded in the sensory register (SR) as proposed in MSM.


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The sensory register (SR) has a larger capacity, which includes all sensory experiences. The duration is short, typically within ¼ to ½ seconds. The encoding process is sensory-specific, which means there are different stores for each sense.

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Describe the capacity, duration, and manner in which information is encoded in short-term memory (STM) as proposed in MSM.


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Short-term memory (STM) capacity holds around 7 +/- 2 items. The duration lasts about 0-18 seconds. The encoding method is mainly acoustic.

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Describe the capacity, duration, and manner in which information is encoded in Long term memory (LTM), as proposed in MSM.


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Long-term memory (LTM) is proposed to have unlimited capacity. The duration lasts for a lifetime. The encoding method is mainly semantic.

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What are the 3 types of long-term memory?

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Endel Tulving suggested that there are three types of LTM: episodic memory, semantic memory, and procedural memory.

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Who further categorised LTM into explicit memory and implicit memory?


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Cohen and Squire (1980) added two further types of LTM: explicit memory and implicit memory.

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What is Explicit memory?


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Explicit memory, also known as declarative memory, involves conscious effort to be stored and recalled. For example, knowledge about the world and personal events.

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What is Implicit memory?


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Implicit memory, also known as procedural memory, does not involve conscious effort to be stored and recalled. For example, skills and action.

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How can explicit memory be subdivided?


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Explicit Memory can be subdivided into semantic memory and episodic memory.

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What is semantic memory?


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Semantic memory is the memory of facts and knowledge, stored in the form of meaning and concept and formed without time stamps.

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What is episodic memory?


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Episodic memory is the memory for specific events in a person’s life, stored with multiple elements and formed with time stamps.

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What is procedural memory?


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Procedural memory is the memory of skills and behaviours, stored in the form of motor actions and formed with time stamps.

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How does Baddeley (1996) support the idea of separate memory stores in MSM?

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Research evidence from Baddeley (1966) supports the idea of LTM and STM being different and separate stores. In his study on coding, he gave participants one of four lists of words to remember. He found that acoustically similar words were harder to recall immediately, and semantically similar words were harder to recall 20 minutes after the test. It was concluded that acoustic confusion occurred in STM and semantic confusion in LTM, suggesting STM codes acoustically and LTM semantically.

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How does research by Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) support the idea of separate memory stores in MSM?


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Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) supported the existence of separate LTM and STM stores because they observed a primacy and recency effect. This research provided evidence for the MSM: people tend to remember the first items because they have more time to rehearse the information, and they may have paid more attention to it. Therefore, these items have a higher probability of being transferred to the LTM. The participants also tended to remember the most recent information because those were still in their STS. Information in the middle might have been lost because of the limited capacity of the STM.

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How does the case of HM (Milner and Scoville, 1957) support the idea of separate memory stores in MSM?


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HM had significant long-term memory impairment as a result of brain surgery. He had little memory of personal (mother and father's deaths) or public events (Watergate, Vietnam War) that had occurred in the last 45 years. Yet, his short-term memory was unaffected. This resonated with the idea in MSM that HM fails to rehearse information from STM to LTM and further supported the idea of the separate stores for STM and LTM.

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Name one memory model which is based on the MSM.


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The Working Model of Memory proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) is based on the MSM.

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How does the case of KF (Shallice and Warrington, 1970) oppose the idea that STM and LTM are unitary stores?


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The MSM argues that STM is a unitary store (i.e. there is only one type). However, evidence from patients suffering from amnesia suggests that this is not true. KF's STM for digits was very poor when others read the numbers to him. On the other hand, his recall was much better when he could read the digits to himself. This suggests that there is more than one STM store (one for sounds and one for images). This case challenges the MSM as it shows that there must be at least two types of STM, rather than just one unitary store as the model suggests.

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How does the Working Memory Model (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974) deny the role of rehearsal in transferring information from STM into LTM?


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The Working Memory Model (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974) suggested that we can recall information that we did not rehearse. However, in some cases, we cannot recall information that we have rehearsed. Therefore, the Working Memory Model denies the importance of rehearsal for transferring from STM to LTM proposed in MSM.

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How does research by Craik and Watkins (1973) deny the role of rehearsal in transferring information from STM into LTM?


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Craik and Watkins (1973) argued that the maintenance rehearsal (repetition to help us hold information in the STM) is not the only type. They proposed one more type of rehearsal, which is the elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal is a shallow process that helps you retain information in the STM. Elaborative rehearsal is a deep process that links information to your existing knowledge. The deeper the processing, the more memorable the information becomes. In other words, a long period of maintenance rehearsal cannot move information from STM to LTM. LTM can be formed only if Elaborative rehearsal occurs. The findings of Craik and Watkins (1973) contradicted MSM, as evidence showed that forming LTM involves more than maintenance rehearsal.

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Why is the research supporting the MSM criticised for having flaws in ecological validity?


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Despite a few research that support the MSM, many studies used artificial tasks in their testing. This raises the concern of evidence lacking ecological validity. The testing is typically based on lab experiments involving tasks like the Brown-Peterson Technique. These are artificial, often involving meaningless trigrams. However, in everyday life, we form memories related to all sorts of useful information. Yet, many of the studies that support the MSM use none of these real-life materials. This means that the MSM may not be an accurate or valid model of how memory works in our daily lives.

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What is the definition of short-term memory?

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The short-term memory definition is information with limited capacity and available for a limited time.

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How is information encoded in the short-term memory store? 

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Information is acoustically encoded in the short-term memory store.

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Which research supported the short-term memory store encoding memories acoustically?

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Peterson & Peterson (1956).

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What is the duration of the short-term memory?

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The duration of short-term memory is generally believed to be about 15-30 seconds.

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What did Peterson & Peterson (1959) find?

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Peterson & Peterson (1959) found 80% memory recall accuracy after 3 seconds, 50% after 6 seconds and 10% after 18 seconds. This finding suggests the duration of short.term memory store to be 18 seconds. 

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What is the 7+/-2 theory?

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Miller (1956) proposed the 7+/-2 theory, suggesting the short-term memory store’s capacity to be between five and nine ‘blocks’ of information.

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Which researcher supported Miller's theory?

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Conrad (1964).

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What was the procedure and results of Jacobs’ (1887) research?

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In the study, participants recalled a series of digits/letters. The sequence of letters and numbers was gradually increased throughout the experiment. The results showed that participants could recall an average of 7.3 letters and 9.3 digits (suggesting participants were better at remembering numbers).

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What is the purpose of distraction tasks when researching the short term memory store? 

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The purpose of distraction tasks is to prevent memories from being moved to the long-term memory store. If this occurs, then the research findings would have low validity.

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Why does short-term memory research require recall phases in research to be immediate?

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To ensure the memories measured are from the short-term memory store. 

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Does recall accuracy vary in the short-term memory store?

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Recall accuracy declines the longer the information is stored in the short-term store. Once the store reaches its duration and capacity limitation, the information is displaced or decays.

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What method did Peterson & Peterson (1959) use to measure short-term memory? 

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Peterson and Peterson (1959) presented participants with trigrams and gave them a distraction task to prevent rehearsal of the stimuli. The purpose of the distraction task was to prevent the information from being moved and processed in the long-term memory store.

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How do the short-term and long-term memory stores differ?

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The short-term and long-term memory stores differ in terms of encoding methods, duration, and capacity of holding information.

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Which of the following is the definition of encoding?

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How information is processed/coded and stored.

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How is information encoded acoustically in the short-term memory store?

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Information can be encoded acoustically by repeatedly saying the information out loud.

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What is memory decay?

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Memory decay is when information is forgotten because the store has reached its limit for holding the memory. It occurs due to the memory not being rehearsed enough and moved to the long term memory store. 

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What is memory displacement?

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Memory displacement refers to information being replaced with new information because the store has reached its capacity. 

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What was the aim of Peterson and Peterson (1959)?

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Peterson and Peterson (1959) aimed to investigate the duration of short-term memory.

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What was the aim of Bahrick et al. (1975)?

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Bahrick, Bahrick, and Wittinger (1975) aimed to investigate the duration of LTM.

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What was the setting of Peterson and Peterson (1959)?

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Peterson and Peterson (1959) was experimental research conducted in a laboratory setting.

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What type of research was Bahrick et al. (1975)?

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Bahrick et al. (1975) was natural experiential research. 

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What were the procedures of Peterson and Peterson (1959)?

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In Peterson and Peterson (1959), a total of eight experiments were presented. The trigrams were presented one at a time and each had to be recalled after a retention interval of 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, or 18 seconds per trial. No two consecutive trigrams contained the same letters. The trigrams were presented acoustically. After hearing a trigram, participants were asked to count backward from a specified random number in increments of three or four until they saw a red light come on (at which point they recalled the trigram). This is known as the Brown-Peterson technique and was designed to prevent repetition.

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What were the procedures of Bahrick et al. (1975)?

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Bahrick et al. (1975) used a total of two tests. In a photo recognition test, participants had to identify pictures of their classmates from 50 photographs in their high school yearbook. In a subsequent free recall test, participants had to were presented with a group of names for each photo and asked to select the name that matched the photos.

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What were the results and implications of Peterson and Peterson (1959)?

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Peterson and Peterson's (1959) results showed a negative relationship between recall accuracy on trigrams and the duration of the retention interval. Students can correctly recall more than 80% of trigrams within the three-second interval, but accuracy remains below 3% after 18-second interval. The results suggest that short-term memory has a maximum duration of about 18 seconds when rehearsal is inhibited. It is hypothesised that this information is lost from short-term memory from trace decay.

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