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Sensory Memory in Psychology

Sensory memory in psychology is the brief storage of information in humans that occurs when information is registered until it is recognized and possibly transferred to short-term memory (Tripathy & men, 2018). Sensory memory allows for the retention of sensory impressions after the original stimulus has been removed (Coltheart, 1980).

We absorb a tremendous amount of information throughout our lives through our visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory senses (Coltheart, 1980).

Because it is impossible to permanently register every impression we have captured through these senses, when we focus our attention on a relevant detail in our environment, our sensory memory records a brief snapshot of our environment lasting several hundred milliseconds.

The first step in remembering something is to focus one’s attention on one of the sensory stores, and then the data is transferred to short-term memory.

Types of Sensory Memory

Sensory memory in Psychology is divided into subsystems known as sensory registers, which include iconic, echoic, haptic, olfactory, and gustatory registers.

Iconic Memory

The visual sensory memory register that stores visual images after the stimulus has stopped is known as iconic memory (Pratte, 2018). While iconic memory has a large capacity, it degrades rapidly (Sperling, 1960). In most cases, information stored in iconic memory vanishes within half a second (depending on the brightness).

Echoic Memory

The sensory memory for incoming auditory information is known as echoic memory (sounds). Sound waves carry the information we hear into our bodies. These are detected by hair cells in the ears and processed in the temporal lobe. Echoic memories are typically processed in 2 to 3 seconds (Darwin, Turvey & Crowder, 1972).

Haptic Memory

Haptic memory refers to tactile sensory memories obtained through the sense of touch via sensory receptors that can detect a variety of sensations such as pain, pressure, pleasure, or itching (Dubrowski, 2009). These memories typically last about two seconds.

It allows us to combine a variety of touch sensations and contribute to the identification of objects we cannot see. For example, while playing a song on the guitar, place a sharp pencil on the back of your hand.

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