What is primary memory? essay

Basically, primary memory is differentiated from secondary memory with respect to the length of retention time of information in one’s mind. The former is also called as short-term memory for it absorbs five to nine bits of information at a time and retain it for approximately 20-30 seconds while the latter has the capacity to retrieve information lost in one’s consciousness for a longer period of time, thus, also called as long-term memory (Willingham, 2006). Since the primary memory stores information within a short duration, its decay occurs spontaneously. To keep the information lingers in our primary memory; rehearsal should be done periodically (Willingham, 2006).

Due to the limited capacity of the primary memory, if a variety of information was conglomerated within, the recall of any of this information would be difficult (Willingham, 2006). The accumulation of information would result to the loss of others in one’s consciousness. This means that the newly absorbed information grabs space in the memory while the old ones, if not protected through rehearsals, moves out. Then, the displaced information will be lost in the primary memory which causes forgetting (Willingham, 2006).

The primary memory has past events and anticipated events modules which are two-dimensional sheet of neurons (Willingham, 2006). Through these modules, the primary memory accepts electro-chemical signals both from recognition memory and secondary memory. Then, it delivers outputs through its slave connections with the secondary memory. Also, when the information has reached the sensory memory, the primary memory takes over (Willingham, 2006).

1.      What is the process of memory from perception to retrieval? What happens when the process is compromised?

The interactions among sensory register, primary memory, and secondary memory take effect on the memory process (Willingham, 2006). Sensory registers are short-term memories linked to the senses. The information successfully encoded into the sensory registers will be processed by the mind. On the other hand, encoding, storing, and retrieving are the essential processes of memory. Encoding is the process of receiving stimulus through the senses into the primary memory (Willingham, 2006). This process may take spontaneously; however, other information can only be encoded by paying attention (Willingham, 2006). After perceiving stimulus, the brain should process and store this information. By means of rehearsals, information may not only stay longer in the primary memory but also facilitates its transfer and encoding into the secondary memory (Willingham, 2006). Once the information has encoded into the secondary memory, it has then the possibility to be stored for a lifetime (Willingham, 2006). By retrieving this stored information, it can be transferred back into the primary memory for reuse.

2.      Is it possible for memory retrieval to be unreliable? Why or why not? What factors may affect the reliability of one’s memory?

Based on the notion made by researchers, the secondary memory has an almost unlimited capacity in storing information (Willingham, 2006). Stored information has the potential to last for a lifetime, thus, possible for retrieval and reuse. Even though information encoded into the secondary memory can be retrieved, the accuracy of retrieval depends on several factors which influenced the encoding process and the amount of interference during the process of retrieval. In line with this, researchers revealed that the accuracy and content of secondary memory may undergo changes and even distortion in the storing stage (Willingham, 2006).

The inability of the brain to assimilate, accommodate, and organized newly absorbed information into the existing schema or memory unit would lead to interference or difficulty in the retrieving process, thus, the accuracy of the retrieved information is affected. The incorporation of the new information into the existing schema is done through the process of assimilation (Willingham, 2006). This entails association among the new information and existing memory units. On the other hand, when the new information does not fit into the existing schema, the information should form new mental structure through the process of accommodation (Willingham, 2006). Nonetheless, the newly formed schema together with other schema should be properly organized by the brain in order to facilitate the retrieval of information for reuse (Willingham, 2006)



Willingham, D.T. (2006). Cognition: The Thinking Animal, 3rd Ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall