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Outline the multi-store model of memory.

Cognitive Approach

Psychology Essays

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Briefly introduce the concept of memory and its importance. Introduce the multi-store model (MSM) as a structural model of memory proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968).

Sensory Register
Describe the sensory register as the first stage of the MSM, responsible for holding sensory information (e.g., visual, auditory) for a very short duration. Mention the limited capacity and modality-specific nature of sensory memory.

Short-Term Memory (STM)
Explain that information from the sensory register passes into STM if attention is paid to it. Describe STM as having a limited capacity (7 +/- 2 items) and duration (around 18-30 seconds without rehearsal). Emphasize the role of rehearsal in maintaining information in STM and transferring it to long-term memory (LTM).

Long-Term Memory (LTM)
Describe LTM as a relatively permanent store with potentially unlimited capacity and duration. Explain that information in LTM is encoded semantically (based on meaning). Briefly mention different types of LTM, such as episodic, semantic, and procedural memory.

Strengths of the Multi-Store Model
Discuss the MSM's influence on memory research and its intuitive appeal. Highlight supporting evidence from studies on amnesia and the serial position effect (primacy/recency effects).

Limitations of the Multi-Store Model
Critique the MSM's simplistic view of a unitary STM and LTM. Discuss evidence for more complex models of STM, such as working memory. Mention the role of factors like elaboration and depth of processing, which the MSM does not fully account for.

Summarize the key features of the multi-store model and reiterate its strengths and weaknesses. Briefly mention alternative models of memory (e.g., working memory model, levels of processing) that have been proposed to address the limitations of the MSM. Conclude by acknowledging the MSM's historical importance and its role as a foundation for later models of memory.

Free Essay

Memory is an essential cognitive function that allows us to retain and retrieve information over time. It enables us to learn, make decisions, and build relationships. The multi-store model (MSM) of memory, proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), is a structural model that attempts to explain how information is processed and stored in our minds. The MSM describes memory as consisting of three distinct stores: sensory register, short-term memory (STM), and long-term memory (LTM). This essay will outline the components of the MSM, explore its strengths and limitations, and discuss its significance in the field of memory research.

Sensory Register
The sensory register is the first stage of the MSM, responsible for holding sensory information briefly before it is either lost or transferred to STM. This information is modality-specific, meaning it is held in separate stores for each sense (e.g., iconic memory for visual information, echoic memory for auditory information). The sensory register has a very limited capacity and extremely short duration, typically lasting only a few milliseconds (Sperling, 1960). If attention is not paid to the information in the sensory register, it is quickly lost.

Short-Term Memory (STM)
Information that is attended to from the sensory register is transferred to STM. This stage of memory has a limited capacity, often described as holding around 7 +/- 2 items (Miller, 1956). The duration of STM is also limited, lasting approximately 18-30 seconds without rehearsal (Peterson & Peterson, 1959). Rehearsal is a crucial process in STM, as it allows information to be maintained in consciousness and potentially transferred to LTM. Rehearsal can be either maintenance rehearsal (simply repeating information) or elaborative rehearsal (connecting the information to existing knowledge), and elaborative rehearsal is more effective for moving information to LTM.

Long-Term Memory (LTM)
LTM is the final stage of the MSM, representing a relatively permanent store of information with potentially unlimited capacity and duration. Information in LTM is encoded semantically, meaning it is based on meaning and understanding. In contrast to STM, LTM is not easily forgotten, although retrieving information from LTM can sometimes be difficult. Researchers have identified different types of LTM, including:

⭐ Episodic memory: This type of memory stores personal experiences and events, including the context and time of their occurrence.
⭐ Semantic memory: This type of memory stores general knowledge about the world, facts, and concepts.
⭐ Procedural memory: This type of memory stores information about how to perform skills and actions, often acquired through practice and repetition.

Strengths of the Multi-Store Model
The multi-store model has had a significant influence on memory research, offering a relatively simple and intuitive framework for understanding how memory works. It has also provided valuable insights into memory disorders like amnesia. For example, studies have shown that individuals with anterograde amnesia (difficulty forming new memories) have impaired LTM but relatively intact STM, supporting the model's distinction between these two memory stores (Baddeley, 1986). The MSM is also supported by the serial position effect, which demonstrates that items at the beginning (primacy effect) and end (recency effect) of a list are better recalled than those in the middle. These effects are thought to reflect the influence of LTM (primacy) and STM (recency) respectively.

Limitations of the Multi-Store Model
Despite its strengths, the MSM has been criticized for its simplistic view of memory. One key limitation is its portrayal of STM as a unitary store, whereas research suggests that STM is more complex and involves multiple components. The working memory model, proposed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974), is an alternative model that addresses this limitation by suggesting that STM is a dynamic system consisting of a central executive, responsible for controlling and coordinating information, and several slave systems: the phonological loop (for auditory information), the visuospatial sketchpad (for visual and spatial information), and the episodic buffer (for integrating information from other systems). Further, the MSM does not adequately consider factors like depth of processing and elaboration, which have been shown to significantly impact memory encoding and retrieval (Craik & Lockhart, 1972). Deep processing, which involves making meaningful connections between new information and existing knowledge, is more effective in transferring information to LTM compared to shallow processing, which focuses on superficial features of information.

The multi-store model has played a significant role in shaping our understanding of memory. It provided a foundation for future research and offered a framework for exploring how information is processed and stored in the mind. However, its simplistic view of memory has led to the development of more complex models, such as the working memory model. These newer models have expanded our understanding of memory, demonstrating its dynamic and multifaceted nature. While the MSM may have limitations, its historical significance in memory research cannot be overstated.


Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. Psychological Review, 75(2), 67-81.
Baddeley, A. D. (1986). Working memory. Oxford University Press.
Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. In The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 8, pp. 47-89). Academic Press.
Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671-684.
Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63(2), 81-97.
Peterson, L. R., & Peterson, M. J. (1959). Short-term retention of individual verbal items. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 58(3), 193-198.
Sperling, G. (1960). The information available in brief visual presentations. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 74(11), 1-29.

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