What Is the Atkinson-Shiffrin Model of Memory?

The Atkinson-Shiffrin model of memory is a multi-store model that suggests that memory consists of a series of different stores, including short-term memory and long-term memory. The model describes memory as flowing through a system, first going into sensory memory, before being held in short-term memory or long-term memory storage. The model mirrors a computer model with an input, a process and an output.

In the model, information is detected by the senses, whether it is heard, smelled, tasted, seen or felt. Once it is perceived by the senses, it is entered into sensory memory, and if attended to, it enters into short-term memory storage. If the information is rehearsed, it becomes committed to long-term memory. Absent rehearsal, information is forgotten and is no longer left in short-term memory but decays or is displaced instead.

The model was created in 1968, and since then, much has been learned about short-term and long-term memory. Whereas the model suggests that rehearsal is key to transferring information to long-term memory, data now suggests that, while helpful, it is not essential. Detractors from the model also note that it puts an emphasis strictly on rehearsal and attention while neglecting the memory's process elements.