Submitted by Matthew D. Schulkind on Tuesday, 1/5/2010, at 2:31 PM

Psychology 34: Memory

Tuesday/Thursday: 10:00 – 11:20

Professor Matthew Schulkind
Office: 324 Merrill    Phone: 542-2790
Office Hours: M 10:00 – 11:00; Th 11:30-12:30, or by appointment
Email:  mdschulkind@amherst.edu
The palest ink is better than the best memory. ~ Chinese proverb
One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory. ~ Rita Mae Brown
If X is an interesting or socially significant aspect of memory, then
psychologists have hardly ever studied X. ~ Ulric Neisser

Overview and Goals: The semester will begin with discussion of some basic issues and theories in the field of memory.  Is memory one thing, or does it consist of a number of dissociable entities?  If so, how do we distinguish between separate modules, both theoretically and empirically?  Where - if anywhere - are memories stored?  Under what circumstances can memory be trusted?  We will also look at some contemporary models used to simulate the way memory works.

In the second part of the course, we will approach memory from a neurological standpoint.  We will identify the portions of the brain that are believed to play a primary role in learning and memory; we will also consider their interconnections and relationships to one another.  After this, we'll examine what happens when parts of the system break down.  It is difficult to appreciate the complexity of memory until you see the varying patterns of impairment that are observed.  We will then look at normal developmental changes in memory performance, particularly those associated with old age.  After looking at how memory changes across the lifespan, we'll examine autobiographical memory, which is memory for your own personal experiences. 

Throughout the course, we will contrast laboratory studies with experiments conducted under more 'real-world' conditions.  The end of the course will focus on memory research related to everyday problems in the real world and will examine the strengths and weakness of laboratory and everyday approaches to studying memory.

Attendance:  You must come to every scheduled class.  This is not a joke. 

Required Reading:  There will be two texts for this course.  The basic text will be Human Memory by Karl Haberlandt.  Read the text.  It is meant to give you a solid footing in the basics of memory.  I will not have time to lecture on everything in the text, but my lectures will presume that you are familiar with the concepts outlined therein.  Therefore, you should be sure to read the text prior to class.  Not everything you read will make sense the first time but it will do a good job of preparing you for the lectures.  The secondary text will be an edited set of readings: Memory Observed: Remembering in Everyday Contexts compiled by Neisser and Hyman.   The Neisser and Hyman book will describe some interesting research grounded in the 'everyday' approach.

The two texts will be supplemented by readings available online through the Blackboard website.  The readings describe experiments that will expand our discussion into areas not covered by either text and/or will describe the empirical work that produced some of the knowledge summarized in the texts.


Website: The course website was designed to fulfill a number of goals.  Most of the overheads that I use in class will be available at the site.  Downloading these overheads prior to class should help you follow the lectures.  I will also make announcements and assign course material via the website. 

In addition, the course website will be the forum for a discussion group.  You will all be responsible for posting comments, insights, and questions to the discussion group.  I will post discussion questions on the news group to help facilitate the process.  We will discuss many of these questions in class, so posting comments and reading through your fellow students comments will help prepare you for these discussions.  Posting on the newsgroup is REQUIRED.  10% of your semester's grade will reflect the QUALITY of your contributions to on-line and in-class discussions.


Exams:  There will be two exams during the semester.  The date of each exam is listed on the course schedule.  The mid-semester exams will be worth 25% of your grade.  Make-up exams will be given only in the case of documented emergencies/illnesses.  Missing an exam for any other reason will result in a grade of 0 for that exam.  Exams will consist of a combination of short-answer and essay questions. 

Written Assignments:  You will be responsible for completing two papers during the semester.  The first, shorter paper will account for 15% of your grade.  The final paper will account for 25% of your grade (see schedule for due dates).  Late papers will be penalized heavily; this is REALLY not a joke.  The last page of the syllabus provides information regarding my expectations for each of the written assignments.

Office Hours: My office hours are listed at the top of the syllabus.  If these times are not convenient, please come see me after class and we can schedule an appointment.  You can also Email me to set up an appointment, but that system often leads to round after round of "Email-tag".  One of my favorite parts of this job is meeting with students so please stop by even if you don't have a major question or problem.  

Grades:  Your grade for the semester will be based on your standing relative to the rest of the class.  I start with the median (50th %-ile) grade in the class and work up and down from there.  The median is usually a B/B+.  If you do a little bit better than the median, you would get a B+/A-; a lot better than the median, A-/A.  Consequently, if you do a little worse than the median, your grade will drop from a B/B+.  There is no set percentage of As, Bs and Cs.  There is also no guarantee that the median grade will correspond to a B/B+.  It could be worth an A if everyone in the class does well, or it could be worth less than a B if everyone in the class does poorly.  After each exam, I will give you as much information as I can about where you stand in the class and what kind of grade you might expect.  If you have any questions or concerns, please email me or drop by my office. 

Pacing:  The course schedule appears on the pages below.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict exactly how long each section/chapter will take.  It varies widely from class-to-class.  Therefore, the day on which a given chapter will be discussed might vary by a class or two from what is presented in the schedule.  We will cover the material in the order described below and I will give you frequent updates regarding where we are and when I anticipate moving to the next topic.  I am very reluctant, however, to change the dates of scheduled exams unless there is a really good reason to do so.  During the class before each exam, I will let you know exactly what material will be covered.   

On a similar note, there is some variability in how quickly individual students pick up different concepts.  Unfortunately, I can't run the class so that all of you will be happy; some will think we are moving too quickly, some will think we are moving too slowly.  But, I will do what I can to keep the course moving at an appropriate speed for the majority of the class.

 

Taking Notes