Levels of Processing and Long Term Memory

Edited by Jamie (ScienceAid Editor), Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jen Moreau

Long Term Memory (LTM)

As shown in the mult-store model, long term memory is a large store that holds information for a very long time. We now shall elaborate on that a bit more and look at the different kinds of long term memory.

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  1. 1
    Declarative Memory
    The first main type of memory is declarative memory. This is said to be 'knowing what' - events and facts. Within this definition are two sub-types of LTM:
    1. Episodic is the memory of events; e.g. what happened yesterday, your last holiday etc.
    2. Semantic is about general knowledge e.g. capital city of Mongolia (Ulan Batur) or knowing the names of your organs.
    3. Procedural Memory. This is all about knowing how. For example, how to ride a bike, write a cheque or make lasagne!
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Levels of Processing Theory

This is another theory of memory but the basic idea is that memory doesn't have stages; but is a by-product of processing. Hence there is no distinction between the two. This theory proposes that different depths of processing have substantial effects on how well things are remembered. Deep processing creates memories that last longer and are stronger traces.

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The following study is the basis for this theory.

Aim To show that memory is a by-product of semantic processing.

Participants were shown a list of words and asked to answer yes or no to them. Three types of question were asked: Is the word written in lower case? (visual processing) Does the word rhyme with...? (acoustic processing) Does the word fit into the following sentence? (semantic processing)

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After they had gone through all the words, the participants were asked to recall them.

Results The words that were processed semantically were recalled best and those that were processed visually were recalled worst.
Conclusion Semantic processing is a 'deeper' level of processing and results in better recall; while, visually processed information is more easily forgotten.
Evaluation In this experiment a vital variable was not controlled: time. Deciding whether a word is upper or lower case requires a fraction of the time to make a decision, compared to how long you have to think about whether it fits into a sentence. It could well be this that is causing the increased recall of the semantically processed words.

However, another study was carried out where the time was controlled, and they found that the results were the same.

Other factors

There are other things as well as the 'depth' of the processing that affect how well information is recalled. Elaboration of processing improves recall. In another study by Craik and Tulving the sentence complexity was varied. E.g. She cooked the ____ compared to She cooked the dazzling goose while wearing a bright red _____

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How distinctive something is as well, for example, out of the following list of names,

  • Smith
  • Jones
  • Bush
  • Zysblat
  • Robinson

Zysblat would be easier to remember because it is unusual compared to the other names.

A further important factor that improves long-term memory recall, is organization. So putting things into nice little categories improves your memory: something to remember the next time you're studying for an exam.

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As always, we like to evaluate each theory to give you a more rounded view of its strengths and weaknesses.

  1. 1
    On the up side - this theory has very practical applications
    1. You can use the levels of processing to help you remember things.
    2. Levels of processing looks at the effects of learning on memory: something not done previously.
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  2. 2
    On the down side - studies have been carried out showing that different types of processing leave better memory traces
    1. But how can they tell which is actually being used? Even if the participant is supposed to be using acoustic processing, what is to prevent semantic processing from also taking place.
    2. Also, there is the problem of cause and effect. Is the amount of effort being put into processing or time taken to process that is causing the effect; rather than something else?
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Questions and Answers

Is it possible to use the framework of LOP to Science Education?

I'd like to use LOP as my theoretical framework in in increasing content mastery and retention through a model learning. It covers a different subject which Science. In the article, LOP is associated in language/ semantic instructions which I believed to be different from Science education.

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Levels of Processing and Long Term Memory. (2017). In ScienceAid. Retrieved Jun 4, 2023, from https://scienceaid.net/psychology/cognition/levelsltm.html

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Article Info

Categories : Cognition

Recent edits by: Taylor (ScienceAid Editor), Jamie (ScienceAid Editor)

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