Memory can be thought of as the ability to process and retrieve
information. In one hundred years of scientific research on this
subject, there is still no dominant theory which explains human
memory. One of the most prominent models in this area over the past
thirty years has been the modal model of memory, which was originally
devised by Atkinson & Shiffrin in 1968. This model theorises a
distinction between sensory, primary and secondary stores. Although
this model continues to be highly influential, it has given rise to
much discussion pertaining to its general validity and the need for
the distinct memory stores. This essay will examine both supporting
and opposing research and theories in order to establish how valid the
modal model is and what its limitations are.
Historically, the first distinction to be made between primary and
secondary stores was made by William James in 1890. Primary memory was
outlined by James as being "that which is held momentarily in
consciousness." Secondary memory he described as being "unconscious
but permanent" (cited by Healy & McNamara, 1996).
A more contemporary description of the modal model was postulated by
Glanzer & Cunitz, (1966, cited in Gross, 1992). Results of their
extensive laboratory research into the existence of the dichotomy of
memory stores has generally been presented using the serial position
curve. When participants are given a list of items to commit to
memory, their recall is usually better for items which appeared early
in the list (the primacy effect) and late in the list (the recency
effect), than it is for items in the mi...
... middle of paper ...
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Gleitman, H. (1995) Psychology. (4th ed). Norton.
Gross, R. (1992) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour. (2nd
ed). London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Healy, A.F., D.S. McNamara. (1996) Verbal Learning and Memory: Does
the Modal Model Still Work? Annual Review of Psychology. 47: 143-72.
Parkin, A. (1987) Memory and Amnesia, An Introduction. Oxford:
Rips, L.J., E.S. Shoben and E.E.Smith (1973) Semantic distance and the
verification of semantic relations. Journal of Verbal Learning and
Verbal Behaviour. 12, 1-20
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