Psych M.D. - Echoic Memory


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Term: Echoic Memory
Definition (Myers): A momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli; if attention is elsewhere, sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 or 4 seconds.1
Definition (alternative): Memory for sound is referred to as echoic memories, which can be defined as very brief sensory memory of some auditory stimuli.2
Contextual explanation: There are various ways that we can retain information. The sensory memory, our memory stored through the senses, consists of the iconic memory and echoic memory. These type of memories are not long-term, and last for a relatively short period of time. The iconic memory is stored through our vision, whereas the echoic memory is stored by our auditory senses.

It is "echoic" because there is a short moment after receiving the auditory information when it echoes in our heads. Compared to the iconic memory, the echoic memory lasts a little longer (about 3-4 more seconds). The echoic memory is also called the auditory memory, auditory store, or auditory sensory register.
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One example experiment was conducted by Guttman and Julesz in 1963. They made "white noises"--sounds that cannot be understood and memorized by people--through the computer and put it together into a pattern. Then, they made the experiment subjects listen to the repeating pattern of the white noise. Guttman and Julesz made the experimented subjects to listen to the sound through headphones and report what they heard. However, surprisingly, if the repeating part of the white noise lasted longer than a few seconds, the subjects did not notice that the sound was being repeated in a pattern. On the other hand, when the repeated segment lasted less than two seconds, they recognized a pattern.
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Another simple example is called the "What did you say?" phenomenon:
P1: What did you have for breakfast?
P2: What did you say again? Oh, I ate cereals.
The second person understands the question after asking "What did you say?" This clearly demonstrates the ability of the echoic memory. The question was held in the second person's memory for a couple of seconds due to the echoic memory. The person did not understand the question at first because he/she did not focus to it. However, after he/she payed attention to the question that was held in his/her memory for a couple of seconds, he/she can answer it.
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Related terms and concepts:
  • Sensory Memory
  • Iconic Memory
  • Memory
Echoic Memory1

Psych M.D. - Echoic Memory - The Neuron


Related websites:
Sources:
  1. Myers, D.G. (2003). Psychology. New York City: Worth Publishers.
  2. Psychology Glossary. Retrieved September 10, 2009, from Alley Dog Web site: http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.cfm?term=Echoic%20Memory
  3. DeweyR (n.d.). Echoic Memory. Psych WWW. Retrieved from http://www.psywww.com/intropsych/ch06_memory/echoic_memory.html
  4. Kartik, N (2005). Sensory Memory and the Mismatch Negativity. Retrieved from http://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/article_detail.asp?article_id=1403
  5. (2005). Memory, sensory. CTER. Retrieved from http://wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Memory%2C_sensory
  6. (2006, April 26). [Video Podcast]. Learning Disabilities There is a Cure: Auditory Memory. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MYjSVshr0A
Edited by: Kathy
Date of last edit: 9/10/09



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