William James's Theory Of Primary And Secondary Memory

1483 Words 6 Pages
As one of the most insightful philosophers and psychologists of our time, William James’ influential theory of primary and secondary memory in 1890 kick-started the long standing dispute between theories of unitary and separate memory stores. Advocates of multi-store models focus heavily on distinctions between long term memory (LTM) and short term memory (STM), such as differences in their capacity of storage and duration of which information can be withheld within each store. Other theorists propose unitary-store models which favour similarities between the two. Evidence for both models are discussed and evaluated below.
Multi-store models
Atkinson and Shriffin’s modal model (1968) was a notable pioneer of this theory. It consisted of sensory
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Researchers use fMRI scans to further support this theory as it is commonly seen as a more concrete form of argument. In terms of the serial position curve, multi-store models argue that retrieval from early and late positions would activate different regions of the brain respectively, while retrieval processes in unitary store models would be similar for both STM and LTM. Talmi et al.’s (2005) study did indeed show activation of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) specifically in relation to LTM. The hippocampal area in MTL had been clearly linked with LTM processes in prior studies (Schacter & Wagner, 1999). In this fMRI study, subjects were asked to study a list of items and were later on given a single probe word from that list during the test phase. The focus of the study is whether subjects were tested on early probes (items high on the list) or late probes (items from the end of the list) and their corresponding MTL activation or lack thereof. Results support the multi-store model as MTL is only activated when presented with early probes. However, previous studies of the same nature yielded mixed results. For instance, Cabeza et al. (2002) found hippocampal and parahippocampal activation for both STM and LTM tasks. On the contrary, Buffalo et al. (1998) and Owen et al. (1995) also found that MTL is crucial for longer periods of retention intervals. Despite all this, Talmi et al.’s (2005) was the only …show more content…
(2007) explained that the reason to why amnesic patients do not exhibit primacy effect in free recall tasks might not be due to impaired LTS, but is due to unstrategic rehearsal methods. They studied an amnesic patient, S.J., whom underwent a bilateral hippocampal lesion. During the free recall task, S.J. was unable to cumulatively rehearse list items like normal subjects. He rehearsed only the latest item presented during the interval before presentation of the next item. Hence, Brown et al. (2007) suggested that amnesic patients’ lack of primacy effect is more likely due to their inability to rehearse strategically rather than their lack of a LTS.
In summary, both multi-store and unitary-store models provide valid arguments. However, they are also equally flawed. Personally, I support the multi-store model as it attempts to express the complexity of the nature of the human memory system, such as in Baddeley and Hitch’s (1974) working memory model. It appears to be more ecologically valid and comprehensive. Besides, it is also better supported by neuroimaging studies. With that said, more research should be carried out before ruling out any one of these

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