Memory & Learning


a relatively permanent change in an organism's behavior due to experience


A theory of learning that focuses solely on observable behaviors, discounting the importance of such mental activity as thinking, wishing, and hoping.

observational learning

Learning that takes place when a person observes and imitates another's behavior

associative learning

Learning that occurs when we make a connection, or an association, between two events.

classical conditioning

learning process in which a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a meaningful stimulus and aquires the capacity to eilicit a similar response.

unconditional stimulus (US)

A stimulus that produces a response without prior learning.

conditioned stimulus (CS)

A previously neutral stimulus that eventually elicits a conditioned response after being paired with the unconditioned stimulus.

Unconditioned Response (UCR)

An unlearned reaction that is automatically elicited by the unconditioned stimulus.

conditioned response (CR)

The learned response to the conditioned stimulus that occurs after conditioned stimulus-unconditioned stimulus pairing.


The initial learning of the connection between the unconditioned stimulus and the conditioned stimulus when these two stimuli are paired.

generalization (classical conditioning)

The tendency of a new stimulus that is similar to the original conditioned stimulus to elicit a response that is similar to the conditioned response.

discrimination (classical conditioning)

The process of learning to respond to certain stimuli and not to others.

extinction (classical conditioning)

The weakening conditioned repsonse when the unconditioned stimulus is absent.

spontaneous recovery

The process in classical conditioning by which a conditioned response can recur after a time delay, without further conditioning.


The recovery of the conditioned response when the organism is placed in a novel context.


A classical conditioning procedure for changing the relationship between a conditioned stimulus and its conditoned response.

systematic desensitization

A method of therapy that treats anxiety by teaching the client to associate deep relaxation with increasingly intense anxiety producing situations.

aversive conditioning

A form of treatment thant consists of repeated pairings of a stimulus with a very unpleasant stimulus.

operant conditioning (instrumental conditioning)

A form of associative learning in which the consequences of a behavior changes the probability of the behavior's occurence

law of effect

Thorndike's law stating that behaviors followed by positive outcomes are strengthened and that behaviors followed by negative outcomes are weakened.


rewarding approximations of a desired behavior


The process by which a rewarding stimulus or event (a reinforcer) following a particular behavior increases the probability that the behavior will happen again.

positive reinforcement

The presentation of a rewarding stimulus following a given behavior in order to increase the frequency of that behavior

negative reinforcement

The removal of an unpleasant stimulus following a given behavior in order to increase the frequency of that behavior.

primary reinforcer

A reinforcer that is innately satisfying: one that does not take any learning on the organism's part to make it pleasurable.

secondary reinforcer

A refinforcer that acquires its positive value through an organism's experience; a secondary reinforcer is a learned or conditioned reinforcer.

schedules of reinforcement

Specific patterns that determine when a behavior will be reinforced.

generalization (operant conditioning)

Performing a reinforced behavior in a different situation.

discrimination (operant conditioning)

Responding appropriately to stimuli that signal that a behavior will or will not be reinforced.

extinction (operant conditioning)

Decreases in the frequency of a behavior when the behavior is no longer reinforced.

interval schedules

The amount of time that must pass before a behavior is rewarded

fixed-ratio schedule

Reinforced a behavior after a set number of behaviors.

variable-ratio schedule

A timetable in which behaviors are rewarded an average number of times but on an unpredictable basis.

fixed-interval schedule

Reinforces the first behavior after a variable amount of time has elapsed.


A consequence that decreases the likelihood that a behavior will occur

positive punishment

The presentation of an unpleasant stimulus following a given behavior in order to decrease the frequency of that behavior.

negative punishment

The removal of a positive stimulus following a given behavior in order to decrease the frequency of that behavior.

applied behavior analysis (behavior modification)

The use of operant conditioning principles to change human behavior.

latent learning

(implicit learning) Unreinforced learning that is not immediately reflected in behavior

Insight learning

A form of problem solving in the organism develops a sudden insight into or understanding of a problem's solution

Instinctive drift

The tendency of animals to revert to instinctive behavior that interferes with learning.


The species-specific biological predisposition to learn certain ways but not others.


The retention of information or experience over time as the result of three key processes: encoding, storage and retrieval.


The first step in memory; the process by which information gets into memory storage

levels of processing

A continuum of memory processing from shallow to intermediate to deep, with deeper processing producing better memory


The number of different connections that are made around a stimulus at a given level of memory encoding.


The retention of information over time and how this information is represented in memory

Atkinson-Shiffrin theory

Theory stating that memory storage involves three separate systems: sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory.

sensory memory

Memory system that involves holding information from the world in its original sensory form for only an instant, not much longer than the brief time it is exposed to the visual, auditory, and other senses.

echoic memory

Refers to the auditory sensory memory, which is retained for up to several seconds.

iconic memory

Refers to visual sensory memory, which is retained only for about 1/4 of a second.

short term memory

Limited capacity memory system in which information is usually retained for only as long as 30 seconds unless we use strategies to retain it longer.

memory span

The number of digits an individual can report back in order after a single presentaion of them.


Grouping or "packing" information that exceeds the 7 + or - 2 memory span into higher-order units that can be remembered as single units


The conscious repetition of information

working memory

A three part system that allows us to hold information temporarily as we perform cognitive tasks; a kind of mental workbench on which the brain manipulates and assembles information to help us understand, make decisions, and solve problems.

phonological loop

specialized to briefly store speech based information about the sounds of language.

visuospatial working memory

stores visual and spatial information, including visual imagery

central executive

Integrates information not only from the phonologiocal loop, and visuospatial working memory, but also from longterm memory.

long term memory

A realatively permanet type of memory that stores huge amounts of information for a long time.

explicit (declarative memory)

The conscious recollection of information, such as specific facts or events and, at least in humans, information that can be verbally communicated.

episodic memory

The retention of information about where, when, and what of life's happenings- that is how individuals remember life's episodes.

semantic memory

A person's knowledge about the world

implicit memory (nondeclarative memory)

Memory in which behavior is affected by prior experience without a conscious recollection of that experience

procedural memory

A type of implicit memory process that involves memory for skills.


The activation of information that people alreadt have in storage to help them remember new information better and faster.


A preexisting mental concept of framework that helps people to organize and interpret information. Schemas prior to encounters with the environment influence the way we encode, make inferences about, and retrieve information.


A schema for an event, often containing information about physical features, people, and typical occurences.

connectionism (parallell distributed processing) PDP

The theory that memory is stored throughout the brain in connections among neurons, several of which may work together to process a single memory

frontal lobes

episodic memory


emotional memory

temporal lobes

explicit memory, priming


explicit memory,priming


implicit memory


The memory process that occurs when information that was retained in memory comes out of storage.

serial position effect

The tendency to recall items at the beginning and end of a list more readily than those in the middle.

primacy effect

Refers to better recall the items at the beginning of a list

recency effect

Refers to to better recall items at the end of a list.


A memory task in which the individual has to retrieve previously learned information as on essay tests.


A memory task in which an individual only has to identify (recognize) learned items, as on multiple choice tests.

encoding specificity principle

Information present at time of encoding or learning tends to be effective as a retrieval cue.

context dependent memory

An attempt to recall information in the context to which is was learned.

autobiographical memory

A special form of episodic memory, consisting of a person's recollections of his or her life experiences.

reminiscence bump

The effect that adults remember more events from the second and third decades or life than from other decades

time life periods

The most abstract level such as an event from high school

general events

The middle level such as a trip you took after high school

event specific knowledge

The most concrete, like the exhilarating experience you had the first time you jet skied.

flashbulb memory

The memory of emotionally significant events that people often recall with more accuracy and vivid imagery than everyday events.


A defense mechanism by which a person is so traumatized by an event that he or she forgets it and forgets the act of forgetting.

motivated forgetting

Forgetting that occurs when something is so painful or anxiety laden that remembering is intolerable

interference theory

The theory that people forget not because memories are lost from storage but because other information gets in the way of what they want to remember.

retroactive interference

Situation in which material that was learned later disrupts the retrieval of information that was learned earlier.

decay theory

Theory stating that when we learn something new, a neurochemical memory trace forms, but over time this trace disintegrates; suggests that the passage of time always increases forgetting.

proactive interence

Situation in which material that was learned earlier disrupts the recall of material that was learned later

tip-of-the tongue phenomenon (TOT)

A type of effortful retrieval that occurs when we are confident that we know something but cannot quite pull it out of memory.

prospective memory

Remembering information about doing something in the future; inlcudes memory for intentions.

retrospective memory

Remembering information from the past


The loss of memory

retrograde amnesia

Memory loss for a segment of the past but not for new events

anterogade amnesia

A memory disorder that affects the retention of new information and events.