Process Models of Memory

Process Model of Memory

Emphasis on operations carried out in memory

Levels of Processing Approach (LOP) Craik and Lockhart 1972

Kind of processing you are engaging in will affect your ability to recall it at a later time

Deeper processing is better than shallow.

Shallow: surface, perceptual features processed

Deep: meaning processed

Craik and Tulving 1975

Study manipulated levels of processing to see how it affects later memory. DV = how well they remember things IV = what they are manipulating (words)

Subjects given a word then asked to answer a question about it. Question’s differed in depth.

Example: word is cloud

Shallow = Structural questions about the concept (Is the word printed in capital letters?)

Less shallow = phonemic: Does the word rhyme with weight?

Somewhat Deep = category: Is the word a type of fish?

Deep = Sentence: Would the word fit in the sentence “He met a ______ in the street?”


Word recognition was better in the “deeper” conditions than the “shallower” conditions.

Strengths of LOP

(1) Specifies how rehearsal varies in effectiveness : rote rehearsal – shallow processing, and poor memory

(2) Can explain the Von Restorff (isolation) effect : unusual stimuli are processed more deeply.

Weaknesses of LOP

(1) Baddeley (1978) – “The Trouble with Levels”

i.Theory is vague: hard to determine if a task is shallow or deep

ii. Big issue is circularity:

better memory <———>Deeper encoding (we assume this by performance on experiment)

Defining one concept with another concept. We just replaced better memory with deeper encoding. You haven’t really explained the underlying phenomenon.


Baddeley’s critique critically weakened the LOP approach. It is now seen as  more of a conceptual orientation than a full-blown theory. Led to new ways of thinking about memory: working memory and multiple memory systems.

Multiple Memory Systems

Different types of memories may exist in separate memory systems.

Tulving (1972)

Proposed two distinct memory systems: episodic memory (autobiographical in nature) and semantic memory (general world knowledge)

Examples of episodic memory= when i was five i broke my arm. I voted in the election last year. The newspaper says it might rain tomorrow.

Episodic memories: Typically these memories are tied to specific times and places.

Semantic Memory examples: Paris is the capital of france. Unkempt means sort of messy. The month before April is March.

Typically these memories are not tied to specific times and places. You can’t recall when they were learned.

A problem

Some memories seem to be a combination of both episodic and semantic information: Dr. Kreuz remembers the time and place he learned the word ubiquitous.

An Addition

In the early 80’s, Tulving added a third component: procedural memory

procedural memory = knowledge of how to do things

Why procedural?

Helps explain certain forms of amnesia. (Who am I? What am i doing here? ) but these people have relatively unimpaired semantic and procedural knowledge and they don’t know they know how to do things.

Procedural example: Amnesics can learn how to solve the Tower of Hanoi. The next day they report never having seen the puzzle before but can solve it quickly.

But not the whole story……

Pricking an amnesic with a pin will make them stop shaking hands with doctors. They don’t remember specific doctor the day before pricking hand but refuses to shake hands.

Telling an amnesic a joke the second time will not get a laugh out of them. They don’t recall the joke however.

The affective response seems to be remembered but not the event itself.

Affect and Memory

Relationship not well understood.

Even in non-amnesics, affect can be split off from other memory (I can’t remember what that book is about, but i know i liked it.)

Can be studied in lab via mood manipulation.

Mood Manipulation

Put subjects into a happy or sad state

Have them learn material in one state or the other

Test them on a later occasion in one state or the other

Learn               Test

Happy             Happy

Happy             Sad

Sad                  Sad

Sad                  Happy

When people are sad people think about things more deeply than when they are happy. You can also test for mood congruence.

How moods are induced:

Happy versus sad music

Problems- lots of sad music; happy music can become annoying; how effective is it really? Not all people affected same way.

A different approach

Subject recall – ask subjects to recall a happy or sad memory or imagine a happy or sad scene.

Problems: ethically questionable, may be idiosyncratic

A final memory phenomenon:

self-reference effect : material thought about in relation to the self is typically recalled at high levels

Subjects asked to think about trait words, like friendly or generous in relation to themselves, or a famous other person, like Jay Leno.

Higher recall for self traits than other (“Leno”) traits.


(1) Words related to the self are connected to an elaborated knowledge structure

(2) Words related to the self are processed more deeply (LOP)

(3) Words related to self are more affectively charged

Related articles
  • Semantic Memory (
  • Long Term Memory (
  • Models of Memory (
  • Process Model of Memory (
  • Pattern Recognition (
  • Concept and Knowledge Structures (
  • Short Term Memory (

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