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February 2017

Focus on Physiology eNewsletter

Featured Experiment: Levels of Processing and Memory

Do you have a hard time remembering someone's name, information for a test, or just where you left your keys this morning? How do we memorize information? How can we help keep our memory sharp?

Memory has been studied in depth. Craik and Lockhart (1972) and Craik and Tulving (1975), discovered and expanded upon the "levels of processing model" of memory. This focuses on the depth of processing involved in memory, and predicts that the deeper information is processed, the longer a memory will last.

We generally process information in 2 main ways: shallow processing and deep processing.
  • Shallow processing involves structural processing, we encode only the physical quality of something, what it looks like; and phonemic processing, we encode the sound of the object. Shallow processing only involves maintenance rehearsal, the repetition to help us hold the idea in short-term memory, and leads to fairly short-term retention of information. 
  • Deep processing involves sematic processing, which happens when we encode the meaning of a word and relate it to similar words with similar meaning. Deep processing involves elaboration rehearsal. This involves a more meaningful analysis of information using images, thinking, and associations, which leads to better recall. Giving words a meaning or linking them with previous knowledge leads to deeper encoding.
Thus, the idea that the way information is encoded affects how well it is remembered.  The deeper the level of processing, the easier the information is to recall. It is known that semantically processed information involves elaboration rehearsal and deep processing which results in more accurate recall.  Phonemic and visually processed information involves shallow processing and less accurate recall.

This explanation of memory is useful in everyday life because it highlights the way in which elaboration, which requires deeper processing of information, can aid memory.
  • Rework - Put information in your own words or talk about it with someone else.
  • Method of loci - When trying to remember a list of items, link each item to a familiar place or route.
  • Imagery - Create an image of something you want to remember, elaborate on it and encode it visually.
The levels of processing model changed the direction of memory research. It showed that encoding was not a simple, straightforward process. This widened the focus from seeing long-term memory as a simple storage unit to seeing it as a complex processing system. This explanation of memory is useful in everyday life because it highlights the way in which elaboration, which requires deeper processing of information, can aid memory.

This lab looks at different levels of processing and how well the subject can memorize lists of words.

Download the Experiment:
Open Version for iWorx TA users (includes Lab and LabScribe settings file) (.zip)

Web Resources
Find more information about memory levels and processing on our Web resources page.

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