Elaborative encoding memories are a combination of

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Elaborative Encoding Memories are a combination of old and new information, so the nature of any particu- lar memory depends as much on the old information already in our memories as it does on the new information coming in through our senses. In other words, how we remember something depends on how we think about it at the time. For example, as a professional gambler, Bubbles found numbers unusually meaningful, and so when he saw a string of digits, he tended to think about their meanings. He might have thought about how they related to his latest bet at the racetrack or to his winnings after a long night at the poker table. Whereas you might try to memorize the string 22061823 by saying it over and over, Bubbles would think about betting $220 at 6 to 1 odds on horse number 8 to place 2nd in the 3rd race. Indeed, when Bubbles was tested with materials other than numbers—faces, words, objects, or loca- tions—his memory performance was no better than average. In one study, researchers presented participants with a series of words and asked them to make one of three types of judgments (Craik & Tulving, 1975). Semantic judg- ments required the participants to think about the meaning of the words (“Is hat a type of clothing?”), rhyme judgments required the participants to think about the sound of the words (“Does hat rhyme with cat ?”), and visual judgments required the participants to think about the appearance of the words (“Is HAT written uppercase or lowercase?”). The type of judgment task influenced how participants thought about each word— what old information they combined with the new—and had a powerful impact on their memories ( FIGURE 6.2 ). Those participants who made semantic judgments (i.e., had thought about the meaning of the words) had much better memory for the words than did participants who had thought about how the word looked or sounded. The results of these and many other studies have shown that long-term retention is greatly enhanced by elaborative encoding, which is the process of actively relating new informa- tion to knowledge that is already in memory (Brown & Craik, 2000). Have you ever wondered why you can remember 20 experiences (your last summer vacation, your 16th birthday party, your first day at college) but not 20 digits? The reason is that most of the time we think of the meaning behind our experiences, and so we elaboratively encode them without even trying to (Craik & Tulving, 1975). So where does this elaborative encoding take place? What’s going on in the brain when this type of information processing occurs? Studies reveal that elaborative en- coding is uniquely associated with increased activity in the lower left part of the 30 50 70 90 100 110 60 40 80 Percentage who subsequently recognized word Semantic judgment (type of) Rhyme judgment (rhymes with) Visual judgment (written in capitals?) Type of judgment 0 10 20 r i B w a h ?

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