Memory is one of the most important concepts in learning; if things are not remembered, no learning can take place. Futhermore, memory has served as a battleground for opposing theories and paradigms of learning (e.g., Adams, 1967; Ashcraft, 1989; Bartlett, 1932; Klatzky, 1980; Loftus & Loftus, 1976; Tulving & Donaldson, 1972). Some of the major issues include recall versus recognition, the nature of forgetting (i.e., interference versus decay), the structure of memory, and intentional versus incidental learning.

According to the early behaviorist theories (e.g., Thorndike , Guthrie , Hull ), remembering was a function of S-R pairings which acquired strength due to contiguity or reinforcement. Stimulus sampling theory explained many memory phenomenon on the basis of statistical outcomes. On the other hand, cognitive theories (e.g., Tolman ) insisted that meaning (i.e., semantic factors) played an important role in remembering. In particular, Miller suggested that information was organized into "chunks" according to some commonality. The idea that memory is always an active reconstruction of existing knowledge was championed by Bruner and is found in the theories of Ausubel and Schank .

Some theories of memory have concerned themselves with the nature of the processing. Paivio suggests a dual coding scheme for verbal and visual information. Craik & Lockhart proposed that information can be processed to different levels of understanding. Rumelhart & Norman describe three modes of memory (accretion, structuring and tuning) to account for different kinds of learning.

Other theories have focused on the representation of information in memory. ACT assumes three types of structures: declarative, procedural, and working memory. Merrill proposes two forms: associative and algorithmic. On the other hand, Soar postulates that all information is stored in procedural form. Kintsch (1974) suggests that memory is propositional in nature and it is the relationship among propositions that gives rise to meaning.

Many theories of instruction do not make assumptions about the nature of memory but do specify how information should be organized for optimal learning. For example, Pask outlines the development of entailment structures and Reigeluth discusses elaboration networks.

Individual differences in memory abilities are discussed by Eysenck (1977) and Guilford and represent an important aspect of intelligence.


Adams, J. (1967). Human Memory. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Ashcraft, M. (1989). Human Memory and Cognition. Glenview, IL: Scott Foresman.

Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering: An Experimental and Social Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eysenck, M. (1977). Human Memory: Theory, Research and Individual Differences. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Kintsch, W. (1974). The Representation of Meaning in Memory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Klatzky, R.L. (1980). Human Memory: Structures and Processes (2nd Edition). San Francisco: Freeman.

Loftus, G. & Loftus, E. (1976). Human Memory: The Processing of Information. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Tulving,E. & Donaldson, W. (1972). Organization of Memory. New York: Academic Press.