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Face Recognition
Levels of Processing & LTM
Multi-Store Model
Working Memory

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Social Psychology

Levels of Processing and LTM

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.

The first main type of memory is declarative memory; this is said to be 'knowig that'. And within this definition are two sub-types of LTM: episodic the memory of events; e.g. what happened yesterday, your last holiday etc. And then there is semantic memory which is general knowledge e.g. capital city of Mongolia (Ulan Batur) or organs (heart).

The second main type of memory is procedural memory which is 'knowing how'. For example, how to ride a bike, write or make a lasagne!

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 it is remembered. Deep processing creates memories that last longer and are stronger traces.

The following study is the basis for this theory.

AimTo show that memory is a by-product of semantic processing.
MethodParticipants 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)

  • After they had gone through all the words, the participants were asked to recall them.
    ResultsThe words that were processed semantically were recalled best and those that were processed visually were recalled worst.
    ConclusionSemantic processing is a 'deeper' level of processing and results in better recall; however, visually processed information is more easily forgotten.
    EvaluationIn this experiment a vital variable was not controlled: time. Deciding whether a word is upper or lower case requires a fration of the time to decide 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 it 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 dazling goose whilst wearing a bright red _____

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

    Smith, Jones, Bush, Zysblast, Robinson

    Zysblast would be better remembered because it is unusual compared to the others.

    A further important factor that improves long term memory recall is organisation. So putting things into nice little catagories improves you memory: something to remember when you are studying for an exam next.


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

    On the plus points this theory has very practical applications, as you can use the levels of processing to help you remember things. And also, levels of processing looks at the effects of learning on memory: something not done previously.

    However, there are also negatives. When studies have been carried out showing that different types of processing leave better memory traces: 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 also taking place.

    Also, there is the problem of cause and effect; is it the amount of effort being put into processing or time taken to process that is causing the effect; rather than anything else?