Sensory Storage

The average student answers only about half of the questions on a test when examined immediately after reading the material. Because of this phenomenon, in the 1940’s a study method called SQ3R was introduced by Francis Robinson; the technique has been used by millions of students since that time.

What does the method involve? AB its initials indicate, the method includes survey, question, read, recite, and review. Students should begin by surveying each chapter. That is, they should read over chapter headings to see the big points that will be developed. If the chapter contains a summary at chapter’s end then you should scan or read that as well.

The second step, the questioning, involves turning each heading into a question to arouse curiosity and increase comprehension. This can be done in an instant and it does not take long. The third step is to read the material, but it ,should be read so as to answer the questions created in Step 2.

Once the first section has been read to answer the questions from the headings, the reader should look away from the book and try to mentally recite the main points in that section. The reader should endeavor to use his or her own words and to give personal examples rather than the ones given in the book. The student can write down this information to preserve and use it later. These steps, 2, 3, and 4, should be repeated for each section.

The final step is to review all of the material by reciting all of it once again. This is a memory check to be sure the material was all processed and saved in memory.

Use this procedure when reading sections of this course. It does work!


Learning, as discussed in the previous performance standards, deals primarily with responses to specific stimuli. While this type of learning applies to humans as well as animals, it certainly does not explain the type of learning that occurs when students attend school, or for that matter the learning which occurs when you are working in this course. That type of learning is much more complex than animals are capable of handling. In spite of how “smart” Lassie or Benji seem to be on the screen, their behavior is more the product of operant conditioning than “thinking.” The trainer is just out of camera range.

Memory is that mechanism that allows people to retain information over a period of time. Memory can be studied a number of ways. Recognition tests measure a person’s ability to pick correct answers from several options. A multiple choice test is an example of a recognition test. Usually, tllls is the easiest type of memory test. The recall test measures a person’s ability to reproduce material. A fill-in-the-blank question is an example of a recall test, specifically, a “cued recall test” because part of the answer is provided by a “cue” in the question itself. A “free recall” question would be the type which requires a student to “list the 5 major causes of the Civil War.” Finally, “savings tests” measure a person’s ability to show how previously learned material can be used to relearn material faster. For example, when you take the final exam for this course, the material should come more quickly to you, when you study and when you take the test because the questions are similar to those you’ve seen on unit tests.

According to one theory of memory, there are three types of memory. Sensory storage hold information for 1 to 2 seconds. Short term memory holds information for up to 30 seconds and long term memory holds information for longer periods of time. The second theory, sees memory as being of two types. Sensory storage is the first type, but short and long term memory are seen as similar, except that long term memory is processed more deeply.

Memory is limited on the basis of how much can be remembered. Generally speaking, seven items can easily be remembered, but remembering 12 or 14 items is difficult or impossible. Chunking is a process by which the brain groups items together, thereby increasing the capacity of one’s memory. Say your phone number to yourself. You probably do not say seven separate digits, but group them together into a group of 3 digits, then two groups of two digits.

For example: 555-12-12

This is a type of chunking process.

Retrieval is the process used to get information out of memory. In humans, it is not always reliable. Sometimes we cannot remember things when we need to, then later on it comes to us. Things tend to come back to us which is more meaningful. Forgetting is defined as an inability to remember. One possible explanation (theory) as to what causes us to forget is called interference. There are two types of interference: proactive and retroactive. Proactive interference is what happens when something you already know keeps you from (interferes with) something new that you need to learn. For example, suppose you have moved to a new city and have trouble remembering your new phone number because you keep recalling the old one. That is proactive interference. Likewise, when your new number interferes with your recalling of the old phone number, that is retroactive interference. Your newly acquired information keeps you from remembering something you learned earlier.

Another possible explanation as to what causes forgetting is decay; the memory fades with time. Physiologists believe that most everything that you have experienced is stored in your brain, like a giant tape recording. However, physical injury or psychological problems can cause loss of memory. This is called amnesia. Alzheimer’s disease, which is a degeneration of neurons which cause memory loss, confusion, depression, hallucinations, and eventually death, is an example of a physical problem that causes memory loss.

Intelligence and Thought

Intelligence is defined as the capacity to learn information and to use information. It is difficult to separate one’s understanding of the concept of intelligence from the learning of language and from thought. Measuring intelligence is difficult and sometimes controversial. Psychologists use two types of tests to discuss intelligence. Achievement tests which measure current knowledge and skills, and aptitude tests which try to predict future performance. Achievement tests are sometimes standardized, sometimes they are not. This means that the test used has been given to many subjects and data from these many tests are kept and used to compare your individual score. An example of a standardized achievement test would be the Standford Achievement Test. An example of an “unstandardized,” or informal, achievement test would be the final exam for this course. Most aptitude tests are standardized. An example of a standardized aptitude test is the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) taken by high school students to get into college. This helps establish their reliability and validity, two concepts psychologists are concerned with when giving tests. Test reliability refers to the degree of confidence that the tester has that the test will always yield the same results. Test validity refers to whether the test actually measures what it is supposed to.

Thought or cognition is defined as the ability to mentally manipulate symbols. Most words describe concepts rather than individual things. Concepts are cognitive (thinking) groups of similar objects, events, states or ideas. Humans have a natural ability to formulate concepts.

Psychologists who stress the mental formation of concepts are called cognitive learning theorists. When a human being is using thought processes to overcome obstacles, this is called problem solving. There are three steps in solving a problem: (1) define what the problem is, (2) make a plan, set goals, and (3) choose various approaches to goals. Many people do not use these specific steps to solve all problems, using instead new and different ways to solve problems. This is one aspect of creativity. Others, on the other hand, always use the same method to solve all problems. In doing this, they sometimes have difficulty solving problems that have unique solutions.

Finding out the results of an action or performance is called “feedback.” Without feedback, you might repeat the same mistakes so many times that you develop a skill incorrectly – you would never learn what you were doing wrong. Even if you were performing correctly, you would not be receiving reinforcement for continuing. If, for example, you always wore ear plugs while you were practicing the piano, you would never know just how bad your version of “Chopsticks” sounded.


Often a skill that you have already learned can help you develop a new skill. If you have learned to play the saxophone, it will be much easier to learn to play the clarinet. You can transfer skills you already have such as reading notes and converting them into responses of your lips, tongue, and fingers to the clarinet. When previously learned responses help you to learn a new task, it is called “positive transfer.”

When a previously learned task hinders learning, “negative transfer” has occurred. An American driving in England may find this task more difficult than an Englishman would find learning how to drive. In England, the steering wheel is on the opposite side and people drive on the opposite side of the road. The learned skill of driving American style makes it difficult to perform the new mental and motor tasks.

An American’s responses are often the exact opposite of what is needed.


Practice, the repetition of a task, helps to bind responses together. It is the key element that makes for smooth and fluent movement from response to response.

Because practice takes time, psychologists have been interested in determining how use that time more efficiently. They have found that whatever type of skill a person is learning, it is usually better to space out practice rather than do it all at once.

It is possible to practice by imagining oneself performing a skill. Athletes c an imagine themselves making a golf swing over and over again or mentally shooting free throws to improve their performance. Psychologists call such efforts “mental practice.” Although it is not as effective as the real thing, it is better than no practice at all.

Investigating Your Memory in Studying

Are you satisfied with the results of your study habits? This activity can help you examine how much you remember of what you read and how you might increase the amount of information you retain.

Purpose: To investigate retention of reading material.

Materials: A text book containing some chapters that you have not yet read, several sheets of paper, and a pen or pencil.

Procedure: Choose two chapters in the book that are similar in length and difficulty. They may be chapters that you have been assigned to read for some course. You must be unfamiliar with both chapters.

Read the first chapter. A day later, write down all the important points you can remember that were in the chapter.

Now read the second chapter. Afterward, perform the following six steps:

1. Write questions on the chapter.

2. Write answers to your questions.

3. Summarize the chapter.

4. Ask yourself oral questions.

5. Review the chapter.

6. Reward yourself for your efforts, such as by listening to a record of eating a snack.

A day later, write down all the important points you can remember about the chapter.

INTERPRETATION: Compare the material you wrote a day after reading the first chapter with what you wrote a day after you read the second chapter.

1. For which chapter did you remember more? Why do you think this is the case?

2. Was there a difference in the kind of information you recalled in each chapter? That is, did you tend to remember relatively unimportant details more in one chapter and essential points more in the other chapter? If so, in which chapter? How would you explain this?

3. How can you make use of these findings to improve your study habits?

Lesson 4 Review

Directions: Answer each of the following questions.

1. What three factors affect learning? Cite an example of each.

2. Write an example in question form of each of the following: (NOTE: Your answer for this question should pertain to this unit.)

A. Recognition test

B. Recall test

C. Cued recall test

D. Free recall test

3. What are the three types of memory?Provide an example for each type.

4. Cite an example of proactive and retroactive interference.

5. In your own words, describe the meaning of each of the following terms and give an example:

Achievement test


Aptitude test





Forgetting Intelligence






Sensory storage

Short-term memory

Standardized tests


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