Memory Mondays, Ch. 7: Semantic Memory and Stored Knowledge, Part 2

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I learned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and excessive amounts of semi-colons, this is the series for you!

Continuing from where I left off last time in Ch. 7, this week I will be discussing the concept of concepts, how concepts are stored in the brain, and where schema fit into all of this.

Defining ‘Concept’

Concepts were traditionally considered to be abstract and stable representations. They are abstract because they are detached from sensory and motor processes, and stable because a given individual uses the same representation of the concept in different moments, and different people have similar representations.

The above definition has been challenged by Barsalou, who considers context to be king for the representations of concepts. He argues that the representation of a concept in a given moment depends on the situation and the individual’s goals. He demonstrates this by using an example of a bicycle. The idea of a bicycle that is activated depends on the situation. The tires will be activated if you have a flat, the basket if you’re trying to figure out if your groceries will fit, and the overall size of the bike if you’re winding your way through traffic (the latter two may be my examples).

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 7: Semantic Memory and Stored Knowledge, Part 1

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I learned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and excessive amounts of semi-colons, this is the series for you! Now new and improved, with fewer comma splices.

Long hiatus from this series. It seemed, when I initially started a weekly series, that keeping up would be manageable, but that did not turn out to be the case. I took an online course, pursued other educational psychology interests, and was busy with work. I also have poor impulse control when it comes to spending time online; if I reel that bad habit in, I can make time for more meaningful activities such as researching and writing for my blog.

The break from blogging has been helpful in some ways, as breaks from writing are. Looking back on previous posts, they seem wordy and heavy with technical vocabulary. Considering I am trying to make these posts accessible to laypeople, that is poor writing on my part. I’ll be running the text through the Hemingway App, to simplify it, and Grammarly, to find the comma splices that litter my writing; it will be an interesting experiment on the extent to which artificial intelligence can help with the writing process.

This week’s topic is semantic memory. Without further ado, let’s get started.

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 6: Episodic Memory: Organizing and Remembering

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I Iearned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and excessive amounts of semi-colons, this is the series for you!

In the previous Memory Mondays post, I talked about the value of consolidation and semanticization of memory, especially in school. While about episodic memory, this chapter still holds a lot of information relevant to semantic memory and school learning, to the point where I don’t really understand why the title of the chapter used ‘episodic memory’ at all.

Episodic memory is memory of moments that happened at a specific point in the past, and has been likened to mental time travel, in that we can relive earlier events and anticipate future events. For episodic memory (or any explicit memory, I think) to function properly, it needs a way to encode that experience so it is distinct from others, a way of storing the memory, and a way to search for and retrieve it.

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 5: Learning

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I Iearned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and excessive amounts of semi-colons, this is the series for you!

For those who have read the work of Daniel Willingham, follow the Learning Scientists, and are active on certain corners of edu-twitter, this chapter’s biggest take-aways will be old news. And yet, revisiting them is harmless, and the chapter provides much else to pique the interest of teachers familiar with some cognitive psychology.

So let’s get started.

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 4: Working Memory

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I Iearned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and bad humour, this is the series for you!

Look at your desk.

Not at your desk? Okay, use your visual long-term memory to picture your desk in your mind.

If you’ve got a lot going on, it is probably pretty cluttered. Notebooks to check, tests to grade, Post-Its with reminders, your (dirty) coffee mug, a couple teaching books, and, somewhere in there, your computer screen and keyboard. The more you’ve got going on, the bigger the workspace you need to stop it from getting out of hand.

Working memory is essentially your desk, but for your mind.

Admittedly, the analogy quickly falls apart if you work at a paperless school, or are organized enough to quickly hand back student work and regularly clean your coffee mug, but the important idea is this: your working memory is your mental workspace.

It’s where you store the things you are thinking about.

It’s where you do your thinking.

Effective use of this space is important for a wide range of cognitive activities, and thus is instrumental in the performance of our students .

So let’s get started.

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 3: Short-Term Memory

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I Iearned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and bad humour, this is the series for you!

Short-term memory is not what many people think it is.

It is not about remembering something from a few days ago, or even a few hours ago. That’s long-term memory. It is very small, and very brief, and while it is part of working memory, it is not the same as working memory. That’ll be another chapter.

It is brief retention of information, and can be divided into two parts: verbal and visuo-spatial.

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Memory Mondays, Ch. 2: Memory and the Brain

Welcome to Memory Mondays, where I read a textbook on memory and talk about what I Iearned. If you like your cognitive psychology neatly summarized, with a healthy dose of unnecessary commentary and bad humour, this is the series for you!

While the text focuses on a psychological approach, evidence from neuroscience is still woven in, as it was in the cognitive psychology textbook I read previously. Alas, it seems I cannot fully avoid learning about the parts of the brain.

For example, if evidence from psychological studies shows that verbal and visuo-spatial short-term memory (STM) are separate, then neuroscience evidence that shows visual and spatial activities activate different parts of the brain supports the theory that they are indeed separate systems.

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