Automatic and effortful processes in memory

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Abstract

Proposes a framework for the conceptualization of a broad range of memory phenomena that integrates research on memory performance in young children, the elderly, and individuals under stress with research on memory performance in normal college students. One basic assumption is that encoding operations vary in their attentional requirements. Operations that drain minimal energy from limited-capacity attentional mechanisms are called automatic. Automatic operations function at a constant level under all circumstances, occur without intention, and do not benefit from practice. Effortful operations, such as rehearsal and elaborative mnemonic activities, require considerable capacity, interfere with other cognitive activities also requiring capacity, are initiated intentionally, and show benefits from practice. A 2nd assumption is that attentional capacity varies both within and among individuals. Depression, high arousal levels, and old age are variables thought to reduce attentional capacity. The conjunction of the 2 assumptions of the framework yields the prediction that the aged and individuals under stress will show a decrease in performance only on tasks requiring effortful processing. Evidence from the literature on development, aging, depression, arousal, and normal memory is presented in support of the framework, and 4 experiments with 301 5-40 yr old Ss are described. (5½ p ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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