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u06d1 Memory Is a Complicated Thing

Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal Dreams, makes the following comment: "Memory is a
complicated thing, a relative of truth, but not its twin" (Kingsolver, 1990, p. 48). What do you
think she means by this and what do her words have to do with this unit on the representation
and organization of knowledge in memory?

Please answer the discussion question by (1) referring to and integrating ideas presented in the
text and any supplemental readings; (2) citing outside resources if necessary to make your point;
and (3) following APA style guidelines for citations and references.

You will be evaluated on how well you can demonstrate that you understand the ideas presented
throughout the unit, including assigned readings, discussions, and independent investigations.
You will also be evaluated on the quality of your workits academic rigor, how well it shows
your ability to think critically, and how completely it covers the questions asked.

Response Guidelines

Respond to at least one other learner in a manner that advances the discussion in a meaningful
way. Your response is expected to be substantive in nature and reference the assigned readings,
as well as other theoretical, empirical or professional literature to support your views and
writings. Reference your sources using standard APA guidelines.

Reference

Kingsolver, B. (1991). Animal dreams. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Anderson, J. R., Bothell, D., Byrne, M. D., Douglass, S., Lebiere, C., & Qin, Y. (2004).
An Integrated Theory of the Mind. Psychological Review, 111(4), 1036-1060.
doi:10.1037/0033-295X.111.4.1036

The architecture assumes a mixture of parallel and serial processing. Within each module, there
is a great deal of parallelism. For instance, the visual system is simultaneously processing the
whole visual field, and the declarative system is executing a parallel search through many
memories in response to a retrieval request. Also, the processes within different modules can go
on in parallel and asynchronously. However, there are also two levels of serial bottlenecks in the
system. First, the content of any buffer is limited to a single declarative unit of knowledge, called
a chunk in ACT-R. Thus, only a single memory can be retrieved at a time or only a single object
can be encoded from the visual field. Second, only a single production is selected at each cycle
to fire. In this second respect, ACT-R 5.0 is like Pashler's (1998) central bottleneck theory and
quite different, at least superficially, from the other prominent production system conceptions
(CAPS, EPIC, and Soar).

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Memory has the potential of being both our greatest muse and paradoxically, our deepest
misfortune. It facilitates the demonstration of our most creative abilities, but also binds us to
recall our deepest failures and pain in life. Memories can prompt us to weave the most dramatic
stories that elicit joy, and tears in others, only to deceive us later in its inability to recall
someones name. Barbara Kingsolvers profound comment: "Memory is a complicated thing, a
relative of truth, but not its twin" seems to characterize memory as a dialectic reflection of both a
stunning example of the intellectual capabilities of the human mind to accurately store and
retrieve information, and a vulnerable element of cognition destined to succumb to a process of
physiological and organizational decay and forgetfulness over the life span (Kingsolver, 1990, p.
48).

According to Sternberg & Sternberg, 2012, declarative and procedural knowledge is cognitively
organized in such a way that it is readily available for retrieval. Declarative knowledge is
information expressed in words and symbols and procedural knowledge is the information
needed for performing actions (Sternberg & Sternberg, 2012). The amount and speed of neural
activations involved in neural information processing and mental representations is critical to this
dual process. Research indicates recognition of visual stimulus in appropriate cortical regions of
the brain is roughly 300 milliseconds (millisecond is 1/1000th of a second).

However, if serial processing in human cognition is the only operational format used, for
example in the perception of complex visual stimulus, then theoretically significant limitations
are placed upon neural activations involved in the analysis. Thus, the distribution of parallel
processes as well must also be considered. Researchers have sought to develop integrative
models for the representation of declarative and procedural knowledge that attempt to explore
and explain the multifaceted and dynamic process of cognitive information processing.

A substantive model of importance in this regard is ACT (adaptive control of thought) and the
revision ACT-R (R - rational). This model uses computer information processing as a metaphor
of understanding how the brain represents procedural knowledge in the form of production
systems and declarative knowledge as a semantic network. But according to Anderson et al.
(2004) there are also two levels of serial bottlenecks in this system. The content of any buffer is
limited to a single declarative unit of knowledge, called a chunk in ACT-R. Thus, only a single
memory can be retrieved at a time or only a single object can be encoded from the visual field.
Second, only a single production is selected at each cycle to fire.

However, the brain is distinct different from computer design as research indicates that the brain
stimulates parallel processing of information as well. The parallel distributed processing model
also called the connectionist model postulates that neurons may be active, inactive or inhibited
during information processing. Knowledge is represented in patterns of neural strength or
inhibition as opposed to units of information in the ACT-R model.

However, in both models information is vulnerable to degradation or decay over the life span.
Nairne (2002) suggests that short term retention of information is tied to activation level of
neural activity which can be lost through a decay process as a direct function of time. Moreover,
the faster the overt articulation rate, the higher the recorded memory span. Therefore, activation
is considered a fragile process which can be lost in the absence of rehearsal. But there is hope!
When necessary, rehearsal can counteract the decay process and refresh activation.

Anthony Rhodes
General Psychology PhD.

References

Anderson, J. R., Bothell, D., Byrne, M. D., Douglass, S., Lebiere, C., & Qin, Y. (2004). An
Integrated Theory of the Mind. Psychological Review, 111(4), 1036-1060. doi:10.1037/0033-
295X.111.4.1036

Kingsolver, B. (1991). Animal dreams. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Nairne J. (2002). Remembering the short term: The Case Against the Standard Model. Annual
Review Of Psychology [serial online]. February;53(1):53. Available from: Academic Search
Premier, Ipswich, MA. Accessed May 12, 2012.

Sternberg, R. J., & Sternberg, K. (2012). Cognitive psychology (6th ed.). Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 9781133313915