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Annu Rev Psychol. 2008;59:193-224.

The mind and brain of short-term memory.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA. jjonides@umich.edu

Abstract

The past 10 years have brought near-revolutionary changes in psychological theories about short-term memory, with similarly great advances in the neurosciences. Here, we critically examine the major psychological theories (the "mind") of short-term memory and how they relate to evidence about underlying brain mechanisms. We focus on three features that must be addressed by any satisfactory theory of short-term memory. First, we examine the evidence for the architecture of short-term memory, with special attention to questions of capacity and how--or whether--short-term memory can be separated from long-term memory. Second, we ask how the components of that architecture enact processes of encoding, maintenance, and retrieval. Third, we describe the debate over the reason about forgetting from short-term memory, whether interference or decay is the cause. We close with a conceptual model tracing the representation of a single item through a short-term memory task, describing the biological mechanisms that might support psychological processes on a moment-by-moment basis as an item is encoded, maintained over a delay with some forgetting, and ultimately retrieved.

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