To some extent that the MSM is useful in explaining how memory works. The MSM shows a simple explanation of how memory is transferred, lost and recalled in sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory. According to this model, information will be collected by our sense of touch, sight, sound and smell. After that, they will go into our sensory memory. Once we pay attention to this information, they will be encoded and will pass into our short term memory. This explains the first step of remember something is to pay attention.
The second step is to transfer information from our short term memory to long term memory as short term memory has limited capacity and duration. According to this model, information will only be transferred to our long term memory from short term memory through the process of rehearsal. This model proposed a direct relationship between rehearsal in short term memory and the strength of the long term memory. The more the information is rehearsal, the better it is remembered. The MSM is supported by several studies, for example, the primacy and recency effect.
Glanzer and Cunitz found that people are able to recall the first and the last few items of a list better than those from the middle. This model explains that this is because earlier items will have been rehearsed better and transferred to long term memory. If rehearsal is prevented by an interference task, the effect disappears, as the model predicts. And for the later items, they are easier to be recalled because they are still in short term memory. Apart from the primacy and recency effect, people with Korsakoff’s syndrome also provide support for the model.
They can recall the last items in a list, suggesting an unaffected short term memory. However, their long term memory is very poor. This supports the model by showing that short term memory and long term memory are separately stored. The existence of separate stores in memory is also supported by the use of modern brain-scanning techniques such as PET scans. For example, these have shown that the prefrontal cortex is active when individuals are working on a task in short term memory, whereas the hippocampus is active when long term memory is engaged.
The notion of a different physiological basis for short and long term memory is further supported by the study of a man called HM, who had to have both hippocampi removed due to a tumour. The effect was that he was unable to form any new long term memories, though he could perform short term memory tasks. Despite the above supports, Baddeley and Hitch’s working memory model showed that the MSM is an oversimplification of the memory process. There are some limitations and they will be explained in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, according to this model, information will only be transferred to our long term memory from short term memory through the process of rehearsal. But actually in our real life, we don’t always spend time to rehearse, yet we still transfer information into our long term memory. In other words, rehearsal is not always needed for information to be stored and some items can’t be rehearsal such as smell. Secondly, this model assumes that there is only one long term memory store and one short term memory store.
This has been disproved by evidence from brain damaged patients named KF who has problem with his short term memory but a normal long term memory for information. This suggested there are several different short term stores, and other evidence suggested there are different long term stores. To conclude, the MSM shows a simple explanation of how memory works. However, it is oversimplified and there are some limitations. So to some extent that the MSM is useful in explaining how memory works.