Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Short-Term Memory

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Short-Term Memory

Memory is one of the most extensively researched concepts in psychology, and the idea of different memory stores has been around since the 1950s.

Short-term memory is a component of memory models responsible for storing memories to which we pay attention. This store has a limited capacity and a limited duration for which it can hold information, and it is easily retrievable for a short time.

The short-term memory definition is the storage of information with a limited capacity and is readily available for a limited time. Typically, short-term memory encodes information acoustically.

If you were walking and looking at a tree, the senses would process the information (visually) when attention is focused on the stimuli. In this scenario, the details of the tree stored in short-term memory would be the short-term memory example.

Short-term Memory Illustration of short-term memory StudySmarterShort-term memory, Flaticon.

What are the features of short-term memory?

Psychologists have found a different store for short-term and long-term memories. The different memory stores have different encoding methods, durations, and capacities.

  • Encoding: how the information is processed/encoded and stored.
  • Duration: how long the information can be stored.
  • Capacity: how much information can be stored.

Encoding in short-term memory

Memories stored in short-term memory store are usually encoded acoustically, i.e., when spoken aloud repeatedly, the memory is likely to be stored in short-term memory.

Conrad (1964) presented participants (visually) with letter sequences for a short duration, and they had to recall the stimuli immediately. In this way, the researchers ensured that short-term memory was measured. The study found that participants had more difficulty recalling acoustically similar stimuli than acoustically dissimilar ones (they were better at remembering ‘B’ and ‘R’ than ‘E’ and ‘G’, even though B and R looked visually similar).

This finding shows that short-term memory encodes information acoustically, as similar-sounding words have similar encoding and are therefore easier to confuse and recall less accurately.

Short-Term Memory Encoding a memory StudySmarterEncoding a memory, Flaticon.

Duration of short term memory

There is still disagreement about the duration of short-term memory, but it is generally thought to be about 15-30 seconds. If the information is not elaboratively rehearsed and transferred to long-term memory within this period, it is forgotten and cannot be retrieved.Peterson and Peterson (1959) presented participants with trigrams (nonsensical/meaningless three-consonant syllables, e.g., BDF). They gave them a distractor/interference task to prevent rehearsal of the stimuli (counting backwards in groups of three). This procedure prevents the information from being shifted to long-term memory.The results showed that accuracy was 80% after 3 seconds, 50% after 6 seconds, and 10% after 18 seconds, indicating the duration of storage in short-term memory of 18 seconds. In addition, the recall accuracy decreases the longer the information is stored in short-term memory.

Short-Term Memory Decline in recall accuracy StudySmarterThe decline in memory recall accuracy in the short-term memory store, Sharon Thind, StudySmarter Originals.

Short-term memory capacity

Miller (1956) proposed the 7+/-2 theory, which states that short-term memory capacity is between five and nine “blocks’ of information. If more information is stored in short-term memory than this number of items, the items are displaced and cannot be moved to the long-term memory store or retrieved.Jacobs (1887) supports Miller’s theory. In the study, participants recalled a series of digits/letters. The sequence of letters and numbers was gradually increased throughout the experiment. The results showed that participants could recall an average of 7.3 letters and 9.3 digits (suggesting participants were better at remembering numbers).

Summary of features of short-term memory

EncodingDurationCapacity
Mostly acousticLess than 20 seconds7+/-2 chunks

Short-Term Memory - Key takeaways

  • Short-term memory is information with limited capacity and available for a limited time.
  • Information is encoded acoustically in the short-term memory store. Conrad’s (1964) research confirms it.
  • The duration of short-term memory is about 15-30 seconds, as Peterson & Peterson (1959) confirms.
  • Miller (1956) determined the capacity of the short-term memory store to be 7+/-2 ‘chunks’ of information. Jacobs (1887) also confirms this.

Frequently Asked Questions about Short-Term Memory

Information needs to be encoded acoustically to ensure it is stored in the short-term memory store. We can do this by repeatedly saying the information out loud.

Short-term memory is information with limited capacity and available for a limited time.

The duration of short-term memory is generally believed to be about 15-30 seconds.

We need to elaborately rehearse information to transfer memories from short-term to long-term memories. 

Psychologists have designed several research techniques to measure short term memory. For example, Peterson and Peterson (1959) presented participants with trigrams and gave them a distraction task to prevent rehearsal of the stimuli. The purpose of the distraction task was to prevent the information from being moved and processed in the long-term memory store.

Final Short-Term Memory Quiz

Question

What is the definition of short-term memory?

Show answer

Answer

The short-term memory definition is information with limited capacity and available for a limited time.

Show question

Question

How is information encoded in the short-term memory store? 

Show answer

Answer

Information is acoustically encoded in the short-term memory store.

Show question

Question

Which research supported the short-term memory store encoding memories acoustically?

Show answer

Answer

Peterson & Peterson (1956).

Show question

Question

What is the duration of the short-term memory?

Show answer

Answer

The duration of short-term memory is generally believed to be about 15-30 seconds.

Show question

Question

What did Peterson & Peterson (1959) find?

Show answer

Answer

Peterson & Peterson (1959) found 80% memory recall accuracy after 3 seconds, 50% after 6 seconds and 10% after 18 seconds. This finding suggests the duration of short.term memory store to be 18 seconds. 

Show question

Question

What is the 7+/-2 theory?

Show answer

Answer

Miller (1956) proposed the 7+/-2 theory, suggesting the short-term memory store’s capacity to be between five and nine ‘blocks’ of information.

Show question

Question

Which researcher supported Miller's theory?

Show answer

Answer

Conrad (1964).

Show question

Question

What was the procedure and results of Jacobs’ (1887) research?

Show answer

Answer

In the study, participants recalled a series of digits/letters. The sequence of letters and numbers was gradually increased throughout the experiment. The results showed that participants could recall an average of 7.3 letters and 9.3 digits (suggesting participants were better at remembering numbers).

Show question

Question

What is the purpose of distraction tasks when researching the short term memory store? 

Show answer

Answer

The purpose of distraction tasks is to prevent memories from being moved to the long-term memory store. If this occurs, then the research findings would have low validity.

Show question

Question

Why does short-term memory research require recall phases in research to be immediate?

Show answer

Answer

To ensure the memories measured are from the short-term memory store. 

Show question

Question

Does recall accuracy vary in the short-term memory store?

Show answer

Answer

Recall accuracy declines the longer the information is stored in the short-term store. Once the store reaches its duration and capacity limitation, the information is displaced or decays.

Show question

Question

What method did Peterson & Peterson (1959) use to measure short-term memory? 

Show answer

Answer

Peterson and Peterson (1959) presented participants with trigrams and gave them a distraction task to prevent rehearsal of the stimuli. The purpose of the distraction task was to prevent the information from being moved and processed in the long-term memory store.

Show question

Question

How do the short-term and long-term memory stores differ?

Show answer

Answer

The short-term and long-term memory stores differ in terms of encoding methods, duration, and capacity of holding information.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is the definition of encoding?

Show answer

Answer

How information is processed/coded and stored.

Show question

Question

How is information encoded acoustically in the short-term memory store?

Show answer

Answer

Information can be encoded acoustically by repeatedly saying the information out loud.

Show question

Question

What is memory decay?

Show answer

Answer

Memory decay is when information is forgotten because the store has reached its limit for holding the memory. It occurs due to the memory not being rehearsed enough and moved to the long term memory store. 

Show question

Question

What is memory displacement?

Show answer

Answer

Memory displacement refers to information being replaced with new information because the store has reached its capacity. 

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Short-Term Memory quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.