Sensory memory

Sensory memory

Sensory Memory - Sensory memory is affiliated with the transduction of energy (change from one sort of energy to another). Sensory memory The environment makes available a spread of sources of data (light, sound, smell, heat, cold, etc.), but the brain only understands electrical stimulation. Sensory memory The body has special sense organ cells that transduce this external energy to something the brain can understand. within the process of transduction, a memory is made . This memory is extremely short (less than 1/2 second for vision; about 3 seconds for hearing).

The sensory memory retains a particular copy of what's seen or heard (visual and auditory). it's absolutely critical that the learner attend to the knowledge at this first stage so as to transfer it to subsequent one. Sensory memory There are two major concepts for getting information into STM: first, individuals are more likely to concentrate to a stimulus if it's a stimulating feature. Second, individuals are more likely to concentrate if the stimulus activates a known pattern.

Sensory memory is a brief storage of information in humans wherein information is momentarily registered until it is recognized, and perhaps transferred to short-term memory (Tripathy & Öǧmen, 2018). Sensory memory allows for the retention of sensory impressions following the cessation of the original stimulus (Coltheart, 1980).

Types of Sensory Memory

Sensory memory can be divided into subsystems called the sensory registers: such as iconic, echoic, haptic, olfactory, and gustatory.

Iconic Memory

Iconic memory is the visual sensory memory register which stores visual images after its stimulus has ceased (Pratte, 2018). While iconic memory contains a huge capacity, it declines rapidly (Sperling, 1960). Information stored in iconic memory generally disappears within half a second (depending on the brightness).


Close your eyes for one minute, and hold your hand about 25cm from your face ad then open and close your eyes. You should see an image of your hand that fades away in less than a second (Ellis, 1987).

Examples of Iconic Memory

  • Seeing an ant on the wall
  • Seeing an aircraft in the sky as you walk down the road
  • Seeing the change of traffic lights

A recent study sought to examine the hypothesis that iconic memory comprises fine-grained and coarse-grained memory traces (Cappiello & Zhang, 2016). The study employed a mathematical model to quantify each trace. The outcome suggested that the dual-trace iconic memory model might be superior to the single-trace model.

Echoic Memory

Echoic memory is the sensory memory for incoming auditory information (sounds). The information which we hear enters our organism as sound waves. These are sensed by the ears’ hair cells and processed afterwards in the temporal lobe. The processing of echoic memories generally takes 2 to 3 seconds (Darwin, Turvey & Crowder, 1972).


Clap your hands together once and see how the sound remains for a brief time and then fades away.

Examples of Echoic Memory

  • Hearing the bark of a dog
  • Hearing the whistle of a police officer
  • Hearing the horn of a car

The recent use of the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) paradigm which employs MEG and EEG recordings, has unveiled many characteristics of echoic memory (Sabri, Kareken, Dzemidzic, Lowe & Melara, 2003).

Consequently, language acquisition and change detection have been identified as some crucial functions of echoic memory. Additionally, a study on echoic sensory alterations suggests that a presentation of a sound to a participant is sufficient to shape a trace of echoic memory which can be compared with a different sound (Inui, Urakawa, Yamashiro, Otsuru, Takeshima, Nishihara & Kakigi, 2010).

Moreover, a study of language acquisition indicates that children who start speaking late are likely to have an abridged echoic memory (Grossheinrich, Kademann, Bruder, Bartling & Suchodoletz, 2010).

Furthermore, lesions on or damage to the parietal lobe, the hippocampus or the frontal lobe too, would likely shorten echoic memory or/and slow down its reaction time (Alain, Woods & Knight, 1998).

Haptic Memory

Haptic memory involves tactile sensory memories procured via the sense of touch through the sensory receptors which can detect manifold sensations such as pain, pressure, pleasure or itching (Dubrowski, 2009). These memories tend to last for about two seconds.

It enables us to combine a series of touch sensations and to play a role in identifying objects we can’t see. E.g. Playing a song on guitar, sharp pencil on the back of hand.

Examples of Haptic Memory

  • Feeling a raindrop on your skin
  • Feeling a key while typing on the keyboard
  • Feeling a string as you play the guitar

The information which enters through sensory receptors travel via the spinal cord’s afferent neurons to the parietal lobe’s postcentral gyrus through the somatosensory system (Shih, Dubrowski & Carnahan, 2009) (D'Esposito, Ballard, Zarahn & Aguirre, 2002).

fMRI studies suggest that certain neurons within the prefrontal cortex engage in motor preparation and sensory memory. Motor preparation provides a significant link to the haptic memory’s role in motor responses.


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