Multi Store Memory And Working Memory Along


Memory is involved in cognition activities and is composed of three distinguishable but related processes, that is, registration of information, storage and retrieval (encoding). Theories of memories provide insight into the structure and processes of various components of the memories. This essay presents detailed evaluation of multi-store memory and working memory models as well as the theories of forgetting.

Multi-store memory (MSM) is a concept introduced by Atkinson and Shiffirin (1968) in an attempt to explain how information is processed in the brain and stored. According to this model, human memory is divided into sensory, short term and long term memory stores. Information moves on a linear scale from short term to long term memory storage. These stores have different characteristics with regards to storage, duration and encoding. The definition of the respective stores is anchored in these differences. Sensory memory covers information from the outside world which is gathered unconsciously. Such information can be lost through decay if the person fails to consciously observe them. Sensory memory is therefore brief memory of iconic (seen) or echoic (heard) events and relies on the senses, each of which has separate store within sensory memory.


On the other hand, short term memory (STM) is temporary, limited capacity and can hold seven +/- two items. This therefore means that the memory operates additions and deletions where new information displaces the oldest information. To avoid the deletion of information and increase the chances of remembrance, small pieces of information are added together to form larger blocks, a process known as chunking. However, information in short term memory is transferred to long term memory through rehearsals. Long term memory (LTM) is described as unlimited in capacity and can store information for lifetime duration. Information stored in long term memory is retrieved back to short term memory during encoding. Baddeley and Hitch (1974) explain that information is stored in long term memory on semantic encoding. In an experiment, Baddeley (1966) presented to participants a list of words that are semantically similar and semantically dissimilar, and the other list of acoustically similar and dissimilar. After the experiment, in which participants were to recall the words, Baddeley (1966) discovered that participants easily recalled acoustically similar words compared to dissimilar words (Gross 2010).

Glanzer and Cunitz in a study showed that when presented with a list of words, participants would likely remember the first and the last few words and are likely to forget those in the middle of the list (Gross 2010). This is known as the serial position effect and supports the existence of separate LTM and STM stores. The primacy and recency effect applies to multi-stores model to explain the difference between LTM and STM. The first words on the list (primacy) are stored in the long term memory while the last words (recency) are stored in the short term memory.

The relationship between brain damage and memory has also been established through case studies. For instance, KF was involved in a motorcycle crash accident and sustained brain damage that significantly impaired his memory (Craik and Lockhart, 1972). However, upon examination, his long term memory was unaffected but he could only recall the last bit of information he heard in his Short term memory. The next example is that of Olive Wearing who contracted a rear neurological infection on the hippocampus part of the brain causing anterograde amnesia (Eysenck 2012). This infection affected memory creation and recollection. However, Wearing remembered the existence of his wife and managed to retrieve and master his musical abilities. His procedural memory, a part of long term memory was intact. These two case studies point to the fact that even with brain damage, some aspect of memory, especially the long term memory can still be retrieved supporting the fact that LTM can last for a life time while STM and sensory memories are easily distorted.

This model was championed by Baddeley and Hitch (1974) and is a critic of the multi-store memory model. WMM advocates that short term memory has different stores and can perform tow tasks at once despite being full. In the previous MSM, Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) argue that STM is a unitary element of memory and performs as a unit where once STM is full, new information displaces the oldest information. However, WMM in their findings suggest that STM is more complex than it is explained in the MSM model.

Working memory model has three components that work either independently or in conjunction with each other. The first component is the central executive which is the main component and is involved in decision making, problem solving and making plans. For instance decisions to perform certain tasks in the course of discharging duties originate from the central executive part of the STM. Visio-spatial sketch pad is the second component of the STM and is referred to as the ‘inner eye’. This component processes visual and spatial information. The more active spatial component focuses on movement perception and control of physical actions while the more passive visual component focuses on visual pattern recognition. For instance, the perception and visualization of the environments and the surrounding, or of a person during a conversation is processed in the Visio-spatial sketch pad. The third component of the working memory is the phonological loop which is referred to as the ‘inner voice’ and focuses on the auditory information processing. For instance, when reading the book aloud, every sound of the words is converted into an acoustic stimulus in which it is then stored.

Understanding multi-store memory model and working memory model provides insights into the human memory. There are strengths and weaknesses associated with these models in their attempt to explain the nature and functioning of human memory. The models provide good understanding of the structure and process of the memory elements. The models present information on the existence of sensory, STM and LTM and explain how each form of memory works in storing and retrieving information.

The distinctions between STM and LTM are also extensively covered by these models. The MSM model explains that short term memory is limited and new information causes deletion of the oldest information and the long term memory is unlimited and lifetime bound. The explanation of the primacy and recency effect draws a clear relationship between LTM and STM. In fact, case studies linking brain damage with the long term memory retention have been explained as well. However, WMM slightly differs with MSM by explaining that STM is more complex with components that operate quite independently.

There are a number of weaknesses associated with these models. The multi-store model is oversimplified by alleging that STM and LTM operate in a single, uniform fashion. Evidence from working memory model explains that memory stores are complicated and thus it’s difficult for the short term memory to work as a unit (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974). This oversimplification fails to account for some of the real life scenarios. The limits of the MSM model in explaining the short term memory fostered the emergence of WMM which elaborates different components within the STM.

The second weakness of MSM is the simplification of rehearsal that fails to account for the transfer of information from STM to LTM. MSM advocates that information in the short term memory only gets to the long term memory through continued rehearsal. This fails to account for experiences such as swimming that are easily stored in the LTM without rehearsing while others such as reading the notes aren’t easily stored despite being rehearsed over and over. Other factors like motivation and strategy are completely ignored in the MSM model (Raijmakers and Shiffirin, 2003).

Regarding the working memory model, little information is provided about the central executive as the component of working memory. This fails to explain how the component works, how it relates with other components and its specific role in processing information stored in the short term memory.

Forgetting is the inability to recall or recognize material previously stored in the memory. This can occur in sensory, short term or long term memory. Forgetting occurs due to lack of availability or accessibility. Lack of availability is where information is not present in the STM due to decay and displacement. However, lack of accessibility occurs in the long term memory due to context dependency and interference.

Flashbulb is a theory of forgetting which advocates that emotions help memories and can shape the information stored in the STM. This occurs when the neural mechanism is triggered by an emotional event which causes flashbulb memories. For flashbulb memories to be created, the event should have real consequences on personal life, the event should be surprising, and prior knowledge is needed to relate it to existing memory structures (Eysenck 2012). However, flashbulb memories occur on the event the person considers personally important and relies on rehearsals for the memories to be stored in the LTM.

Interference theory on the other hand explains that disruptions of memories in the LTM occurs causing people to forget (Gross 2010). Retroactive interference is where new material disrupts the recall of old material while proactive interference is where old materials disrupt the recall of new material. Therefore, the more similar the material the greater the interference and this is applicable to real life situations such as not remembering new phone number due to having an old number for long. While flashbulb rely on rehearsals and focuses on the STM, interference theory is based on similarity of information and focuses on memories stored in LTM

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Human memory is a vital tool requiring research to fully explore the nature and functioning of the key components of the memories. This essay has discussed in detail multi-store memory model and working memory models in understanding memories and identifying the relationship between sensory, short term and long term memories. Case studies and examples have also been pointed out.


  • Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. 1968. Chapter: Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In Spence, K. W., & Spence, J. T. The psychology of learning and motivation (Volume 2). New York: Academic Press. pp. 89–195.
  • Baddeley, A .D., & Hitch, G. 1974. Working memory. In G.H. Bower (Ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation: Advances in research and theory (Vol. 8, pp. 47–89). New York: Academic Press.
  • Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. 1972. Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal behavior, 11, 671-684.
  • Eysenck, M. 2012. Simply psychology. Hove: Psychology Press
  • Gross, R. D. 2010. Psychology: the science of mind and behaviour. 6th edn. London: Oxford University Press
  • Raaijmakers, J.G.W. & Shiffrin, R.M. 2003. Models versus descriptions: Real differences and language differences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 26, 753.

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