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Storeage and Retreival in STM: Why can’ I……..

September 16, 2012

As an instructional designer understanding the process of how learners store and retrieve information is essential. The difference between how the Short Term Memory (STM) and Long Term Memory (LTM) processes information will allow an instructional designer insight on design approach. Therefore, the design should allow students to store and retrieve information in long-term; basically what to include what not to include. This should be based on research, and best design strategy.

A website titled “The Human Memory” has interesting information on STM. The information caused me to think on how I process and store information.  Instantly I had a “huh” moment. I suffered with being able to glance at an unknown needed number, quickly store in STM, retrieve then dial the number. It never failed; I would forget the number every time. It would just  disappear from my memory which was so frustrating and a huge inconvenience. I sometimes had to go back and view the number two or three times over before it actually locked in my STM memory. Am I the only person this happened to? And why does this happen to me when I put forth every effort to quickly store and retrieve the information correct the first time….what is going on with my STM?

The website “The Human Memory” states “your STM can be thought of as the ability to remember and process information at the same time” (Mastin, 2010). It also states, “STM holds a small amount of information (typically around 7 items or even less) in mind in an active, readily-available state for a short period of time (typically from 10 to 15 seconds, or sometimes up to a minute)” (Mastin, 2010). Aren’t phone numbers exactly 7 items? Well, according to Mastin (2010) “in order for me to correctly understand or store information, the first part of the phone number needs to be held in mind while the rest is read, a task which is carried out by the STM” (Mastin, 2010). Maybe my issue is solved if I first make sure I quickly memorize the three numbers in the phone number, first. Not…

Memorizing phone numbers quickly to dial has always been a problem for me therefore I consider the above mentioned information valuable, but I still need more information to further clarify the functions of STM. I came across an article titled “Dissociation of shortterm forgetting from the passage of time” which the words “short-term forgetting” immediately gained my attention and intrigued me to read further. This article really provided detailed information as there was a method which participants participated in 2 experiments, with conditions and retention intervals. Participants were instructed to remember word pairs and numbers. There were hard to easy conditions. The results showed forgetting functions, and recall accuracy. (White & Dunedin, 2012) For me this provided insight to when the “trace memory would decay” (White & Dunedin, 2012). For example, when I quickly, in my mind, memorize the phone number for dialing, there is a pause taking place when I visually leave the phone number to enter it into the phone. There is all type of distractions happening along with me trying to input the number quickly into my STM. To say it plainly, although I am trying to quickly store the number, I am severely under pressure to memorize the number, as well as, unfocused. I have learned to give those numbers meaning by now adding a favorite tune or song. I recite the numbers including the song and behold it works, in STM. Granted, I can’t remember the number in LTM. But I don’t need the number to be in my LTM because it’s a number I need for that day and time, only.

What information needs to be stored in STM versus LTM? Of course what information is most valuable to the student would be decide if storage in STM or LTM. So why is this relevant as an instructional designer? Bottom-line…understanding how learners store, process, and retrieve information is important in the design process. In a virtual setting it is vital to understand this process considering the instructor is not physically there with the student. The storage and retrieval process of the brain is a must know for an Instructional Designer. There should also include interesting attention grabbers making the design much more interactive, versus read along.

Mastin, L. (2010). The Human Memory. Retrieved from The Human Memory:

White, K. (2012). Dissociation of short-term forgetting from the passage of time. Journal Of
Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, And Cognition
, 38(1), 255-259.








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