Storage: Retaining Information & Sensory Memory

Topic: Storage: Retaining information and sensory memory

Posted by: Soomin

Key Terms:

  • Iconic Memory: a momentary sensory memory of visual stimuli; a photographic or picture-image memory lasting no more than a few tenths of a second.
  • Echoic Memory: a momentary sensory memory of auditory stimuli; if attention is elsewhere, sounds and words can still be recalled within 3 or 4 seconds


If you can remember something that you experienced, it means that you must have stored and remembered it. We can classify those as long-term memory or short-term memory. But what is our memory storage capacity? The sensory memory is the first memory store noted in the three-stage processing model.
Sensory Memory: Dr. George Sperling (1960) did a research where he showed people 3 rows of 3 letters each for about 1/20th of a second. When the letters disappeared, people could only recall about half the letters. Their inability to recall all the letters was not because they did not have enough time to look at all of them, which Sperling demonstrated by sounding a tone for each row of letters. By doing this, the subjects could remember the letters of each row, showing that all nine letters were momentarily available for recall.
Through his experiment, Sperling revealed that we have a fleeting photographic memory called the iconic memory. He revealed that we can see and recall a scene very precisely but only for a few tenths of a second. He also demonstrated this by delaying the tone signal by more than half a second, which resulted in the loss of iconic memory with the subjects not remembering half the letters.
Echoic memory is an impeccable, though fleeting, memory for auditory sensory images. However, the auditory echo disappears more slowly, usually lasting about 3 to 4 seconds.

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stimulus cards

example of a typical stimulus card

Storage: Retaining Information & Sensory Memory - The Neuron
Graph of the results of Sperling's experiment

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