Give a brief account of the difference between STM and LTM and consider the extent to which research supports the distinction between them (12 marks)
The main differences between short term memory and long term memory are their duration, capacity and encoding. Short term memory has a very limited duration and capacity whereas the duration and capacity of long term memory is potentially unlimited. In terms of encoding, the information in the short term memory is usually acoustically coded whereas the information in the long term memory is usually semantically encoded. The difference in the duration of short term and long term memory was supported by the research conducted by Bahrick et al into the duration of long term memory and the research of Peterson & Peterson into the duration of short term memory. In Bahricks study a group of participants aged 17 to 74 were given 3 different conditions. First they were asked to do a free recall of the pupils in their graduate class, then they were givin photos of the students and asked to recall the names of the students and lastly they were given a list of names and asked to select the names in their graduate class. They found that those participants who were being asked 15 years after their graduation were 90% accurate with the name and photo recognition and 60% accurate with the free recall. The participants who were being asked 48 years after graduation were 80% accurate with name recall, 70% accurate with photo recall and 30% accurate with free recall. In the Peterson and Petersons study, 24 university students were each given a nonsense trigram and were immediately asked to count backwards in 3’s or 4’s and then asked to recall the trigram, however each time they were asked the retention time was increased. They found that after 3 seconds 90% gave accurate answers whereas after 18 seconds only 2% accurately answered. These studies therefore suggest that short term memory and long term memory have different...
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