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Yates Memory Summary. Items of memory are like physical objects. The IMAGE is of a Storehouse… Consists of Items – facts, lists, the enumerated points of a speech, etc. Items of memory are like physical objects. The IMAGE is of a Storehouse…

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  • Items of memory are like physical objects. The IMAGE is of a Storehouse…

  • Consists of Items – facts, lists, the enumerated points of a speech, etc.

  • Forgetting occurs IF the item is left alone… i.e., this item can be LOST in the clutter like any physical object… so you have to “hunt” for it


  • Items of memory are like physical objects. The IMAGE is of a Storehouse…

  • Consists of Items – facts, lists, the enumerated points of a speech, etc.

  • Forgetting occurs IF the item is left alone… i.e., this item can be LOST in the clutter like any physical object… so you have to “hunt” for it

  • Memories fade (like other things stored away and never dusted off and used… or like an old picture or like old wallpaper) UNLESS repetition occurs



  • Important or emotional memories are stored a Storehouse…better (differential storage… some things store better than others).

  • Mostly accurate, like a record; may be incomplete or 2 memories can be confused, but are generally trustworthy.


  • Important or emotional memories are stored a Storehouse…better (differential storage… some things store better than others).

  • Mostly accurate, like a record; may be incomplete or 2 memories can be confused, but are generally trustworthy.

  • Memories don’t change drastically over time (except for fading).



  • Explicit, active memory events are the culture’s typical memory example– trying to store (effortful), trying to recall (typical situations -- studying for or taking a test, grocery list, other lists, remembering to do something; atypical – riding a bike, following a route, acting appropriately in class, typing, speaking)





  • The culture lacks a clear distinction between storage of information and retrieval of that information. Both are called memory. (Example: did you “forget” something? If so, most people don’t ask themselves if this was a failure to store the information or a failure to retrieve the information. The response is simply “I forgot”). Try this: when someone says “I forgot” or “I can’t remember”… what do they mean? (probably either no storage or no retrieval).





  • Most of the above cultural beliefs suggest a specific image of memory. Test this IMAGE: e.g. a dark pantry or file drawer or desk drawer or large box or a junk store…

  • Like any physical container, you can fill this one with ITEMS (things)

  • you have to intend to store things (items) there… you have to consciously put

  • them there…








  • The fact that so many cultural beliefs are consistent with a couple of visual images is evidence that these images control how we think about memory… they constitute a CULTURAL THEORY of memory. This suggests two things:

    • the arbitrariness of these images. Why not construct other images that might do a better job of capturing the properties of memory?

    • these images may have limited how psychologists and others have studied memory. Awareness of them can help us critically examine them and “escape” them.


Students in Memory & Language are free to critically examine Yates’ “theory of the cultural theory” offered here; if there are ways it inaccurately depicts the cultural view, bring them up in class or in your paper. Are there strongly-held cultural beliefs about memory that do NOT fit into the images suggested above?


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