Echoic memory, otherwise known as the auditory sensory memory, is a part of our short term memory. When we hear a sound, like a lyric, or a short sentence, our echoic memory engages the brain to keep a perfect replica of the sound we heard in our minds for a short amount of time. Sometimes we defer paying attention to the sound's meaning when we hear it and instead interpret the brain's copy. For example when we are not fully paying attention to the person we are listening to, we may ask for them to repeat what they said and then realize what was already said. This is our echoic memory in action producing the copy of the sound we heard so that we can catch up on what the person was saying. This allows us to be able to briefly think on that sound's significance. Echoic memory is often compared to iconic memory. Iconic memory is the brain’s ability to replicate exact copies of an image in our minds. The difference between the two, however, (besides iconic memory dealing with images) is the auditory sensory memory is much longer. Iconic memory lasts for less than a second, whereas echoic memory may reproduce that short sound for up to four seconds. An example of echoic memory would be if you were sitting next to your friend and your friend had asked you for the time. You respond by asking, “What did you say? Oh, 8:45.” You did not necessarily hear the question until after asking. This means that even though your focus was not initially on what your friend was saying to you, when you did eventually turn your attention toward them, you knew what was said. Research has shown that our echoic memory increases with age and also declines after adulthood. That means that a toddler’s echoic memory is not nearly as advanced as a teenager’s, but also means that an elderly person has worse echoic memory than a teenager’s. This may be because our cognitive development declines with age.
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