Learning Activity 1 (p. 237)

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Sensory register

Type of sensory information

Duration of storage

Iconic memory


0.2–0.4 seconds

Echoic memory


3–4 seconds

5 In what way might sensory memory have an adaptive function and assist us in adjusting to ongoing environmental change?


Sensory memory is adaptive in that it acts as a store where incoming sensory information can be filtered to keep out irrelevant and unimportant information, thereby preventing clutter or information overload. If we had to process all sensory information reaching us from the environment, this could result in inefficiencies in everyday functioning and we would find the world very confusing. By filtering out irrelevant information, we can attend to sensory information that may threaten our wellbeing. Thus sensory memory has an adaptive function enhancing our survival.

6 Is information in sensory memory subject to an encoding process? Explain your answer.

Information in sensory memory is believed to be held in its raw sensory form and not subject to an encoding process, unless attended to. Following attention, information must be converted into a transmissible and/or storable form.


a What is required for information to transfer from sensory memory to STM?

Explanation should refer to the crucial role of attention to specific sensory information resulting in transfer to the short-term memory (STM).

b What happens to information that is not transferred to STM?

It is lost quickly – within seconds at most.

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