SL Psychology IA - Iconic Memory

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Meredith Lambert                                                                              Iconic Memory                              


        This study replicated Sperling (1960) to experimentally investigate the duration and capacity of the iconic memory store. Iconic memory is a memory store that holds rapidly decaying visual impressions of a stimulus for 2-3 seconds after it has been removed. The aim of this experiment was to support the theoretical capacity of the iconic memory, which is 4-5 items, and also the rapid decay of information held in the store.

        A single blind, independent measure design used an opportunity sample of 30 students from a selective entry Queensland high school aged between 13 and 17. The participants were separated into 3 groups, one of which completed the Whole Report procedure, while the other two completed the Partial Report.

        All participants viewed a grid of 9 alphanumeric characters for 500ms. Following this, those participating in the Whole Report were asked to immediately recall as many of these 9 letters as possible. The two groups completing the Partial Report received an auditory cue after viewing the stimulus after a delay of either 500ms or 2 seconds.

        The findings of this experiment show the rapid decay of information in the iconic memory with mean recall after 500ms (M = 2.3) almost four times higher than after two seconds (M = 0.6). The results corresponded to those of Sperling (1960).


Abstract                                                                        2

Introduction                                                                        4


        Method                                                                5

        Participants                                                                6

        Apparatus/Materials                                                        6

        Procedure                                                                7

Results                                                                                7

Discussion                                                                        8

References                                                                        11


        A – Participant Consent Form                                        12

        B – Participant Information Sheet                                        13

        C – Participant Stimuli                                                14

        D – Standardised Instructions                                        15

        E – Standardised Letter Recall Sheet for Participants                16

        F – Participant Debriefing Sheet                                        17

        G – Raw Data for all Participants                                        18


        The cognitive approach of psychology attempts to scientifically clarify the internal mental processes responsible for memory encoding, storage and retrieval. The first widely accepted model of memory (Atkinson and Shiffrin, 1968) separated memory into three distinct stores; the sensory, short-term and long-term stores.

        The sensory memory retains impressions of stimulus for short periods of time after the stimulus has been removed. This memory store is separated again into iconic and echoic memory stores, of which the echoic memory is responsible for the storage of auditory stimuli. Iconic memory is a rapidly decaying short term visual memory store that stores impressions of stimuli for approximately 500s after the offset of a display. Sperling (1960) first conducted experiments confirming the existence of the iconic memory store, initially named the visual sensory store, investigating its capacity and duration.

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        Sperling conducted numerous experiments in which participants were required to recall alphanumerical letters arranged in rows of either three or four, with (Partial Report) or without (Whole Report) a guiding auditory cue.

        The Whole Report (WR) required participants to recall characters from a presentation with no delay from the display offset. The participants were not restricted as to which characters they recalled.

        The Partial Report (PR) gave participants a cue after the viewing of the visual stimulus specifying the characters they were required to recall. This element of the experiment measured the ability of participants to selectively recall information ...

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