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Key Terms


The process of transforming information into a form that can be stored in memory.


The process of keeping or maintaining information in memory.


A physiological change in the brain that allows encoded information to be stored in memory.


The process of bringing to mind information that has been stored in memory.

sensory memory

The memory system that holds information from the senses for a period of time ranging from only a fraction of a second to about 2 seconds.

short-term memory

(STM) The memory system that codes information according to sound and holds about seven (from five to nine) items for less than 30 seconds without rehearsal; also called working memory.


The event that occurs when short-term memory is filled to capacity and each new, incoming item pushes out an existing item, which is then forgotten.


A memory strategy that involves grouping or organizing bits of information into larger units, which are easier to remember.


The act of purposely repeating information to maintain it in short-term memory.

elaborative rehearsal

A memory strategy that involves relating new information to something that is already known.

long-term memory

(LTM) The memory system with a virtually unlimited capacity that contains cast stores of a person's permanent or relatively permanent memories.

declarative memory

The subsystem within long-term memory that stores facts, information, and personal life events that can be brought to mind verbally or in the form of images and then declared or stated; also called explicit memory.

episodic memory

The type of declarative memory that records events as they have been subjectively experienced.

semantic memory

The type of declarative memory that stores general knowledge, or objective facts and information.

nondeclarative memory

The subsystem within long-term memory that stores motor skills, habits, and simple classically conditioned responses; also called implicit memory.


The phenomenon by which an earlier encounter with a stimulus (such as a word or a picture) increases the speed or accuracy of naming that stimulus or a related stimulus at a later time.

levels-of-processing model

A model of memory that holds that retention depends on how deeply information is processed.


A memory task in which a person must produce required information by searching memory.

retrieval cue

Any stimulus or bit of information that aids in retrieving particular information from long-term memory.


A memory task in which a person must simply identify material as familiar or as having been encountered before.

relearning method

A measure of memory in which retention is expressed as the percentage of time saved when material is relearned compared with the time required to learn the material originally.

savings score

The percentage of time saved when relearning material compared with the amount of time required for the original learning.


An account of an event that has been pieced together from a few highlights, using information that may or may not be accurate.


The integrated frameworks of knowledge and assumptions a person has about people, objects, and events, which affect how the person encodes and recalls information.

infantile amnesia

The relative inability of older children and adults to recall events from the first few years of life.

flashbulb memory

An extremely vivid memory of the conditions surrounding one's first hearing the news of a surprising, shocking, or highly emotional event.

eidetic imagery

The ability to retain the image of a visual stimulus for several minutes after it has been removed from view and to use this retained image to answer questions about the visual stimulus.

serial position effect

The finding that, for information learned in a sequence, recall is better for the beginning and ending items than for the middle items in the sequence.

primacy effect

The tendency to recall the first items in a sequence more readily than the middle items.

recency effect

The tendency to recall the last items in a sequence more readily than those in the middle.

state-dependent memory effect

The tendency to recall information better if one is in the same pharmacological or psychological state as when the information was encoded.

hippocampal region

A part of the limbic system, which includes the hippocampus itself and the underlying cortical areas, involved in the formation of semantic memories.

anterograde amnesia

The inability to form long-term memories of events occurring after a brain injury or brain surgery, although memories formed before the trauma are usually intact and short-term memory is unaffected.

long-term potentiation

(LTP) An increase in the efficiency of neural transmission at the synapses that lasts for hours or longer.

nonsense syllable

A consonant-vowel-consonant combination that does not spell a word and is used in memory research.

encoding failure

A cause of forgetting that occurs when information was never put into long-term memory.

decay theory

The oldest theory of forgetting which holds that memories, if not used, fade with time and ultimately disappear altogether.


A cause of forgetting that occurs because information or associations stored either before or after a given memory hinder the ability to remember it.

consolidation failure

Any disruption in the consolidation process that prevents a long-term memory from forming.

retrograde amnesia

A loss of memory for experiences that occurred shortly before a loss of consciousness.

motivated forgetting

Forgetting through suppression or repression in order to protect oneself from material that is painful, frightening, or otherwise unpleasant.


Completely removing unpleasant memories from one's consciousness, so that one is no longer aware that a painful event occurred.


A partial or complete loss of memory due to loss of consciousness, brain damage, or some psychological cause.

prospective forgetting

Not remembering to carry out some intended action.


Practicing or studying material beyond the point where it can be repeated once without error.

massed practice

Learning in one long practice session without rest periods.

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