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Multi Store Model 

Multi-Store Model of Memory

The Multi-Store Model

In 1968, Atkinson and Shiffrin proposed the multi-store model of memory to explain how human memory functions. This model was the first to suggest that memory consists of three distinct stores.

Sensory Register:

Initially, information from the environment enters the sensory register. This component of memory is connected to all the sensory stores, corresponding to each of the five senses. The coding in this store is modality-specific, meaning it depends on the sensory input; for example, visual information is stored in iconic memory and acoustic information in echoic memory. The duration of the sensory register is very brief, lasting less than half a second. It is believed to have a vast capacity—for instance, there are approximately 100 million cells in just one eye. Information only moves from the sensory register to other memory components if it is attended to.

Short-Term Memory:

Short-term memory primarily codes information mainly acoustically (Baddeley) and retains it for about 18 seconds unless the information is rehearsed. This is supported by research into duration of STM from Peterson & Peterson. Short-term memory has a limited capacity, as shown by Jacobs and Miller of around 7+/-2 items. Maintenance rehearsal is relied upon to retain information in short-term memory. This involves repeating or rehearsing the information to keep it in our short-term store. If we successfully give the information meaning, then it may then transfer to the long-term memory store.

Long-Term Memory:

Information in the long-term memory store is believed to last indefinitely, potentially a lifetime. Baddeley has demonstrated that long-term memories are primarily coded semantically, i.e. by meaning. The duration of long-term memory is considered to be lifelong, and its capacity is thought to be limitless. Bahrick found that the duration of long-term memory can be quite remarkable from his yearbook study. According to the multi-store model of memory, if we wish to recall information from long-term memory, we must transfer it back to short-term memory through the process known as retrieval.


1. One strength of the multistore model is the extensive range of research supporting the distinction between short-term and long-term memory in terms of coding, capacity and duration. Baddeley suggested that coding in short-term memory is primarily acoustic, while coding in long-term memory is mainly semantic. Jacobs and Miller found that the capacity of short-term memory is about 7±2 items of information. Peterson & Peterson found that short-term memory has a duration of approximately 30 seconds, and Bahrick demonstrated that long-term memory can be quite enduring.

2. Another strength of the multistore model is the research evidence from the case studies of HM and Clive Wearing. Both had difficulties in forming new long-term memories due to damage to the hippocampus. HM and Clive Wearing seemed to live in the present, unable to transfer information to long-term memory, yet their existing long-term memories were largely intact, suggesting differences in coding capacity and duration between the two stores.

1. One weakness of the multistore model is that it has been argued to oversimplify short-term memory. For instance, the working memory model, a newer conceptualization, attempts to explain the processing of information in memory. This model is supported by Shallice and Warrington's 1970 study of a patient known as KF, who suffered a motorcycle accident. It was found that only a part of his short-term memory was impaired. His recall for digits was poor when read aloud to him, but his recall was better when he read them himself, indicating a more complex structure than originally proposed by Atkinson and Shiffrin.

4. Another point of contention with the multi-store model is that not all information requires prolonged rehearsal to be transferred to long-term memory. Craik & Watkins, in 1973, posited that the nature of rehearsal is more crucial than its duration. For instance, Craig and Watkins emphasized the necessity of elaborative rehearsal for long-term retention, rather than mere repetition.


Multi Store Model Exam Questions

Multi Store Model Mark Scheme

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