Multi-Store Model

the Multi-Store Model of Memory Explained

The Atkinson-Shiffrin (A–S) model is one of the most well known models of human memory from a multi-store perspective. Atkinson and Shriffrin drew on the earlier work of Waugh and Norman’s (1965) memory model Opens in new window to propose a three-part memory model consisting of the sensory register, the short-term store and the long-term store (Atkinson & Shriffrin, 1968).

Sensory Register

The Sensory register receives auditory and visual stimuli through our senses. The sensory register Opens in new window is a system of memory through which information from the outside world is registered into the system quite briefly, but long enough so that it can be processed further.

Information here, if not immediately treated more consciously, will almost certainly be lost by decay, that is, it will fade quickly with time.

Short-term Memory

The short-term memory (STS: also referred to as the short-term– or working memory Opens in new window), is where limited quantities of information may be held whilst the system needs them before it is either lost or transferred into the long-term store (LTS). Such information may be retained for longer periods here if more consciously attended to.

Information enters the STS from both the sensory register and the LTS. Newly acquired information enters the sensory register and then moves to the STS for processing and possible further storage in the LTS. The model is shown in the Figure, below.

chiasmus diagram showing abba pattern
Fig1. Phrase attributed to Churchill — The pattern shown here is a notation for the meaning of the word “chiasmus,” which comes from the Greek letter X (chi).

Within the STS is a rehearsal buffer that holds items while they are rehearsed for long term storage. Similarly, when asked to retrieve information from the LTS, this information will enter the STS for processing and possible usage as a response. Here, information retrieval is compared to the requested information criteria and either a response is generated or the search through the LTS continues.

Since it has a finite capacity, overloading this type of store is the most likely reason for forgetting—some items may undergo displacement by others.

Long-term Memory

Long-term memory—arguably of indefinite capacity and duration—stores information for as long as eternity. Within the STS is a rehearsal buffer that holds items while they are rehearsed for long term storage.

Similarly, when asked to retrieve information from the LTS, this information will enter the STS for processing and possible usage as a response. Here, information retrieval is compared to the requested information criteria and either a response is generated or the search through the LTS continues. Within the LTS, control processes work to store and retrieve information (Atkinson & Shriffrin, 1968; Shriffrin & Atkinson, 1969).

Control Processes

Control processes are individual decisions we make when processing information. Within the storage process, we determine what information to store, how to restore it, where to store it in terms of placement, and what proportion of information to store.

Within the retrieval process we activate a search for information in the LTS, recover that information to the STS, analyze the information recovered, and either generate a response or continue the search.

Decay of information can happen at all stages of this model. Atkinson and Shriffrin (1968) addressed forgetting by suggesting that information can be either destroyed, making retrieval impossible, or damaged, in that retrieval may be delayed temporarily or permanently.