Sensory Memory

Information is first received by sensory memory. Input is in the form of sensations that have been produced by the sensory receptors. Memory registers or sensations being produced through the visual, auditory and other sense organs. The capacity of these registers is very large – capable of storing all that the sensory receptors transmit. They also appear to represent this information faithfully in a form that closely resembles the actual stimuli. A good illustration of the nature of these representations is the after image we see in our mind’s eye immediately after observing an object and closing our eyes. This example also illustrates the duration of sensory memory. Information is stored for only a fraction of a second and will be lost through decay (fading away) unless sufficient attention is allocated to it so that it can be analyzed and transferred to short term memory for further processing. This initial information analysis is conducted in terms of physical characteristics (such as size, color, shape and so on) which are the process of feature analysis described. Advertisers concentrate a great deal of effort on designing stimuli in their ads to be vivid and easily recognized in order to draw attention and to provide strong sensory impressions for consumers.

Short term Memory

To a large extent, short term memory can be viewed as the workspace for information processing. That is, it is a portion of memory activated to temporarily store and process information in order to interpret it and comprehend its meaning. This is accomplished by combining incoming information with other information (past experience, knowledge and the like) stored in long term memory.

Although the duration of this memory register is considerable longer than that of sensory memory, it still is very brief, lasting less than one minute. In addition the capacity of short term memory is quite limited. Approximately seven items of groupings of items are all that can be sorted at any one time.

Material residing in short term memory does not bear a one to one correspondence with the real world. Instead, the process of coding is used to organize information into a more easily handled and remembered format. The primary method of this coding is termed chunking which can be defined as the method of assembling information into a type of organized unit having a more understandable or manageable form to the individual. For example consider how the number 18004332510 could be more easily utilized if it were chunked into the configuration 1-800-432-2510 as a toll free telephone number.

Brand names as well as symbols trademarks, and other representations also can serve as chunking devices to organize material. Thus, the word Smuckers or the Master card symbol is able to bring forth a large number of informational items or thoughts the consumer may have about each of these companies. Also, when we realize that a chunk can be among the approximately seven items a person can simultaneously hold in short term memory, we should appreciate that the capacity of seven times items or chunks is not limited as one might initially suspect.

It appears that to employ the chunking process an individual must be prepared to receive the incoming information. For example, a radio advertisement involving telephone number should alert consumers that a number will be mentioned so that they will be prepared to chunk it into an exchange plus a four digit number. Without such preparation the material may be forgotten before chunking can e used. In addition the telephone number should be announced in chunked form to facilitate memory.

A figure demonstrates rehearsal is required to maintain information in short term memory or to transfer it to long term memory. If rehearsal does not occur, the information will be forgotten through the process of decay. However, it appears that the type of rehearsal involved differs depending on whether the goal is to retain material in short term memory for additional processing or to transfer it to long term memory. The process of maintenance rehearsal involves the continual repeating of information so that it can be held in short term memory. For example, after hearing a new brand name of interest the consumer might keep on repeating it silently until she could write it down. The type of rehearsal used to transfer information to long term memory is frequently called elaborative rehearsal because it appears to involve relating the new information to prior experiences and knowledge in order to derive meaning from it. This is considered to involve deeper levels of processing rather than mere repetition of the information.