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Human learning is a complex activity: when we learn, we do not just "acquire new response patterns." We think. We receive, store, integrate, retrieve, and use vast amounts of information. In fact, human learning is such a complex activity that it almost defies description: even the most prominent cognitive theorists admit that there is much that we do not know about what goes on inside the human brain. Nevertheless, cognitive psychology has made substantial contributions to the theory of learning and instruction.
This chapter will describe what we know about how people receive, store, integrate, retrieve, and use information. The fact that this chapter focuses very heavily on memory should not by any means be taken as an indication that memorization of information is more important than the useful application of that information. Rather, the accurate storage and recall of information and concepts should be viewed as the basis for most other intellectual activities.
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
- Describe the operation of human memory and of its individual components.
- Describe strategies to enable learners to receive information effectively through their sensory registers.
- Describe strategies for transferring information accurately and efficiently to working memory and for keeping information in working memory.
- Describe strategies for transferring information accurately to long-term memory and for retrieving information from long-term memory.
- Describe the basic factors that contribute to forgetting and describe strategies to minimize forgetting.
- Define automaticity and describe the role of overlearning in human information processing.
- Define positive and negative transfer and describe their impact on human learning and information processing.