Yates memory summary
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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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Yates Memory Summary

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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…

  • 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 better (differential storage… some things store better than others).


  • Important or emotional memories are stored 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 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).


  • Simple things are easier to remember than complex (differential storage again).


  • 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)


  • Memory functions are controlled by “you”… by your conscious mind… what to store, what to recall. Memory is under our voluntary, conscious control.


  • Memory requires effort… we have to work at it (both storage and retrieval).


  • Repetition and rehearsal aid memory or may even be necessary for memory.

  • Forgetting: the culture recognizes 2 forms: loss and retrieval failure.


  • 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).


  • For most of the examples people think of (grocery list, studying for a test) the cultural belief is that INTENTION to remember is important. It helps to INTEND and TRY to store the information.


  • 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…


  • 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)


  • 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…


  • you have to rummage around to find things. Some things are easy to find because they are at the front, but there are places in the pantry that are full of cobwebs because you don’t go there much, so it is harder to find things. In other words,


  • your memory may or may NOT be organized, BUT organization aids retrieval BECAUSE memory is like a STOREHOUSE filled with ITEMS.


  • Some items (important, emotional, distinct) are more SALIENT in the storage space, and thus (like a salient physical object being searched for by someone looking around in a storehouse) are easier to recall.


  • “Simpler” items take up less storage space, can be easier organized, and take less work to store than “complex” items.


  • Just like things in a storehouse, memories in this physical space don’t change by themselves… they are expected to be accurate (aren’t people SURPRISED when memories are shown to be inaccurate?), but only some things get stored so memory is incomplete.


  • Repetition/rehearsal and the putative effects of emotion seem to be related to another common physical metaphor… of IMPRESSING something on a blank surface.


  • 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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