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PSY 368 Human Memory. Sensory Memory. Structural Model. Memory composed of storage structures that hold memories for a period of time Sensory memory Short-term memory (STM) Long-term memory (LTM). Sensory Memory. Sensory memory Very short storage of info from senses Functions:

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PSY 368 Human Memory

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psy 368 human memory

PSY 368 Human Memory

Sensory Memory

structural model
Structural Model
  • Memory composed of storage structures that hold memories for a period of time
    • Sensory memory
    • Short-term memory (STM)
    • Long-term memory (LTM)
sensory memory
Sensory Memory
  • Sensory memory
    • Very short storage of info from senses
      • Functions:
        • To allow further processing of the info (STM)
        • Helps us to connect our sensory experiences
      • Multiple stores:
        • Visual sensory memory = iconic memory (Neisser, 1967)
        • Auditory sensory memory = echoic memory
        • Touch sensory memory = haptic memory
the eye and how it behaves
The eye and how it behaves
  • At its center is the fovea, a pit that is most sensitive to light and is responsible for our sharp central vision.
  • The central retina is cone-dominated and the peripheral retina is rod-dominated.
  • Limitations of the visual field
    • 130 degrees vertically, 180 degrees horizontally (including peripheral vision)
the eye and how it behaves1
The eye and how it behaves
  • Eye Movementsserve two major functions
      • Saccades to Fixations – Position target objects of interest on the fovea
        • Duration 10ms - 120ms
        • Very fast (up to 700 degrees/second)
        • No visual perception during saccades
      • Tracking – Keep fixated objects on the fovea despite movements of the object or head
      • eye movement video
  • Eye Fixations perceptions are gathered during fixations
    • 90% of the time the eye is fixated
    • duration: 150ms - 600ms

Video examples: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

iconic memory
Iconic Memory
  • Questions:
    • What happens to the visual image?
    • How do we get information out of the image?
    • How do we connect visual images (from different fixations)?
  • One answer: have a memory storage separate from the visual image itself

Video example

iconic memory1
Iconic Memory
  • Is there scientific evidence for iconic memory?
    • The number of items that can be accurately perceived at a glance
    • The number of objects that can be attended to at once
  • Problem: If the info decays quickly, subjects don’t have enough time to report it.
iconic sensory store
Iconic Sensory Store

your iconic memory does this…

If I show you this….

…but faster!

  • Reports of “seeing” a scene after it disappeared
  • This introspective description was suggestive of some kind of "single, visible, precategorical, high-capacity, quickly-decaying memory that holds incoming visual stimulation for further processing" (Loftus & Irwin, 1998).
iconic memory2
Iconic Memory
  • George Sperling (1960)
  • Believed that he can see more than he can report
    • The limitation is not in storing the information but in reporting it
  • Solved this problem (span limit problem) and supported the existence of iconic memory
  • Used two techniques:
    • whole report
    • partial report

Iconic Memory

50 msec

  • Whole Report:
  • Presented a 4 x 3 matrix of letters and digits for 50 ms, and asked subjects to report all the items they saw.

Report Cue





iconic memory3
Iconic Memory
  • Whole Report:
  • Subjects are shown an array of items and asked to report all the items they saw.
  • A N P L
  • K M D T
  • W B S R
    • so 9/12 would be = 75% accuracy
  • Results:
  • Subjects could not report more than about 4.5 items on each trial. (4.5/12 = 38%)
  • held true over wide range of exposure durations (.015 - .5 sec)

Iconic Memory

50 msec

  • Partial Report:
  • 4 x 3 matrix of letters for 50 ms, subjects report all the items from one particular row.
    • He cued them which row to report by playing a high, medium, or low tone.

Report Cue

(I have horn, drum, pong)

















iconic memory4
Iconic Memory
  • Partial Report:
  • Subjects are shown an array of items and asked to report a subset of the items they saw.
  • B M C K
  • N V P A
  • W J U L
  • So 3/4 = 75% accuracy
  • Results:
  • Subjects could typically report all 4 items on each trial. (4/4= 100%)
iconic memory5
Iconic Memory
  • So far we’ve addressed capacity of iconic memory, what about duration, how long does it last?
    • Effect of delay of tone

Report Cue

  • Varied time between the disappearance of the display and the onset of the cue tone: 0 to 1 sec
iconic memory6
Iconic Memory


  • With short delays, can report proportionately more, but with longer delays partial report performance is similar to whole report

Report Cue

iconic memory7
Iconic Memory
  • Conclusions from Sperling (1960):
    • Evidence of iconic memory
    • Properties:
      • High capacity of information
      • Very short duration (lasts about.5 sec)
      • Pre-categoical (“raw,” unprocessed) information (we’ll return to this)
iconic memory8
Iconic Memory
  • Memory vs. afterimage of the eye?
a little on color vision
A little on color vision




Signal to Brain

  • Trichromatic theory of color vision




Equal Parts Red and Green =



a little on color vision1
A little on color vision
  • Trichromatic theory of color vision
  • Opponent Process Theory
    • Red opposes Green
    • (Red + Green) opposes Blue
  • Explains color afterimages
iconic memory9

report cue





50 msec




(250 msec)

Iconic Memory

Banks and Barber (1977)

  • Similar to Sperling methodology
  • If using a retinal after-image then letters with complimentary colours would be reported
    • Redbecomes Green
    • Yellowbecomes Blue
  • Results:
      • their data showed subjects can recall correctly with a color cue
iconic memory10
Iconic Memory
  • Is the information in iconic memory “unprocessed?”
    • Pre-categorical report: based on sensory properties (location/color)
    • Post-categorical report: based on categorical properties (type of item - letters or digits)
      • Von Wright (1972)
      • Merikle (1980)
iconic memory11
Iconic Memory

Is info in iconic memory pre-categorical?

Von Wright (1972)

Used partial report method with different report criteria

  • type (numbers vs letters)
  • color
  • location
iconic memory12
Iconic Memory
  • BUT Merikle (1980) used different kinds of displays (perceptual groupings, letters, and numbers) and found that the partial report advantage for type (number vs letter) as strong as location
  • So it’s possible info processed to some degree
problems with iconic memory
Problems with Iconic Memory
  • Information may not be precategorical
    • e.g., Merikle (1980)
  • The idea of output interference rather than decay.
    • Dick (1971) found that the first item was reported correctly equally often for whole and partial reports.
      • The act of recalling one item can interfere with recall of the next item, so the more items you're required to report, the less likely you are to report the last one successfully
  • The types of errors that the subjects make.
      • Auditory confusion errors (e.g. if letter is B, subjects more likely to report V than R)
      • Mewhort & Leppman (1985) – identification (‘T’ was there or not) error rates didn’t increase with duration between display and probe
sensory memory1
Sensory Memory
  • An important distinction:
    • Stimulus persistence: Something that looks or sounds like the stimulus continues to be present for a short amount of time after the stimulus is no longer present
    • Information persistence: Information can be extracted from a stimulus for a short amount of time after the stimulus is no longer present

Early view: stimulus persistence and information persistence were basically the same thing.

But more recent research suggests that:

    • Stimulus persistence reflects residual neural activity after exposure to a stimulus
    • Information persistence reflects the same type of memory that is used for longer-lasting information
echoic memory
Echoic Memory
  • Sensory memory for auditory information
    • Not as much research done on echoic memory as iconic
the ear and how it behaves
The ear and how it behaves

Changes in Air Pressure

  • Stimulus is much more linear and transitory
echoic memory1
Echoic Memory
  • Darwin, Turvey, and Crowder (1972)
  • Whole report: report all 3 lists
  • For partial report, the cue was:
  • - light on the left = report left speaker list
  • - light on the right = report right speaker
  • list
  • - light in the center = report list that was
  • The interval from list offset to cue onset was:
  • - 0 seconds, 1 second, or 4 seconds
echoic memory2
Echoic Memory
  • Darwin, Turvey, and Crowder (1972)
  • Findings:
    • Partial report advantage up until about 4 sec
      • so echoic memory lasts 4 s or more
    • Echoic memory holds less than iconic memory
echoic memory3
Echoic Memory
  • Some of the Effects discovered in study of echoic memory
    • Using Immediate Serial Recall tasks
      • Presented a list of items and asked to recall them in the order in which they were presented
        • Recency effect
        • Modality effect
        • Suffix effect
  • Note: while these effects were discovered in the study of echoic memory, they are currently believed to reflect general memory principles rather than exclusively features of echoic memory
echoic memory4
Echoic Memory
  • Recency effect - last item of list better remembered than items earlier in the list
echoic memory5
Echoic Memory
  • Suffix effect - recency effect disappears if an auditory item follows last list item
  • Typical Suffix Effect experiment has 2 conditions:
  • Control conditionlist of auditory items presented.
  • Suffix conditionthe same, except that each list is followed by a spoken word.
  • Why the effect?
  • Interference from last item disrupts memory trace
echoic memory6
Echoic Memory
  • Modality effect - last item of list better remembered when presented aloud than visually or silently


Acoustic information persistence lasts approx. 2 seconds -- unless a subsequent similar stimulus interferes with it.

When the subject reports the last item, it is still present in echoic memory.

In contrast, visual stimulus persistence doesn't last that long.

sensory memory summary
Sensory Memory Summary

Capacity - limited only by amount of info that can be received by the perceptual system (e.g., eye, ear)

(2) Duration of memory:

- iconic - up to about 1 sec

- echoic - about 4 - 20 sec depending on type of info

(3) Type of info - mostly pre-processed, but some processing may occur after 250 - 300 ms