Knowledge Acquisition and Memory Development

Knowledge Acquisition and Memory Development

PSY 331- Psychology of Learning


Brain development starts in the fetal stage and continues past birth, all the way until young adulthood. However, memory development continues even after physical development of the brain stops. Memory and learning are interrelated notions. An individual needs memory to learn. Understanding how to successfully retain information through effective information processing can vastly improve one’s learning capacity. An individual can understand effective information processing and maximize their learning capacity by knowing what memory development is and how it relates to acquiring new knowledge, understanding why it is important to successfully move information from working memory to long-term memory, knowing strategies to help move information from working memory to long-term memory, the role of attention and perception in developing schema, the effect of the different types of memories on information processing, and the effect of false memory on effective learning.

Memory Development

While learning is the attainment of information, memory is the demonstration of what you attained. Thus, memory development can be referred to as the increase in information, or knowledge, over time. An individual’s memory increases as they grow, as does their working memory capacity. An individual acquires and develops knowledge throughout the stages in their life and different experiences. Jean Piaget postulated that there were four stages of cognitive development, and that an individual had to master each stage before advancing to the next. The first stage is the sensorimotor stage (birth to about two years), where children use their five senses and work on their fine motor skills to make sense of the world around them, but they cannot think logically yet (Lecci, 2015). The second stage is the pre-operational stage (about two-seven years old), where children are learning to speak and communicate but still cannot yet think logically, as they do not understand conservation or de-centering (Lecci, 2015). The third stage is the concrete operational stage (about age seven to adolescence), where children can start to think logically to a certain extent, as they cannot think abstractly or theoretically (Lecci, 2015). Piaget’s fourth stage is the formal operations stage (adolescence and older), where an individual can now achieve complex logical thought (Lecci, 2015). As an individual achieves each of these stages, they develop their schemas to accommodate the new information. According to Rosser-Majors (2017), schema development is crucial to cognition because it impacts effective and precise learning. Since learning and memory are interrelated concepts, cognitive development and schema development are necessary for memory development.

Effective Processing

The ability to transfer information from working memory to long-term memory (effective information processing) is important because it allows the individual to store more information and retrieve it when needed, thus enhancing the learning process. According to stage theory, individuals archive data in different stages (Rosser-Majors, 2017). The first stage is the sensory memory stage, where we pick up information from our environment by using our five senses and determine if that information is valuable or not (Rosser-Majors, 2017). The second stage is the working memory, or short-term memory stage. The information that is picked up during the sensory memory stage and deemed important gets transferred to the working memory stage, where we then elucidate the information and situationally delegate parts of our cognition to it (Rosser-Majors, 2017). The information in this stage is stored briefly before either being transferred to long-term memory or being forgotten. Working memory can store several pieces of information at a time. The final stage is long-term memory. The information that we elucidate in our working memory and consider important, then gets transferred to our long-term memory by reiterating it or memorizing it (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Our long-term memory is our enduring memory and we can recall that information effortlessly. Our long-term memory has an unlimited capacity. Any information that does not get transferred into long-term memory, is completely forgotten. Therefore, without transferring information into long-term memory, we would forget everything we learn. Hence, effective information processing is vital to the learning process.

Potential Strategies

An individual’s long-term memory is boundless and once information has been transferred from the working memory to long-term memory, it is perpetually accessible. The Baddeley model of working memory theorizes that there are three significant subcomponents to working memory: the visual-spatial scratchpad, which manages spatial information; the episodic buffer, which formulates representations of information; the phonological loop, which manages auditory information (Rosser-Majors, 2017). With effective information processing being critical to the learning process, there are several strategies that can be utilized to transfer knowledge from our working memory to our long-term memory, while taking Baddeley’s concepts into consideration. These strategies include managing cognitive load, self-regulation, chunking, and mnemonic devices.

Cognitive overload is when the stressors of archiving information during a learning task surpass the processing capability of a cognitive structure (Chandrasekaren, 2011). When cognitive load becomes too heavy, it reduces an individual’s selective attention and diminishes their learning capacity. There are three types of cognitive load: intrinsic load (complexity of the information), extraneous load (interferences or disturbances), and germane load (variety of materials presented to enable learning) (Rosser-Majors, 2017). When intrinsic load or extraneous load becomes too heavy, or germane load is too light, it interferes with the subcomponents of our working memory, making it difficult for us to move that information to long-term memory. Being exposed to less stimulus during learning substantially increases an individual’s ability to retain knowledge.

Self-regulation, in the behavioral sense, is the ability to act in your continuing best interest, consistent with your fundamental values. Increasing self-regulation improves an individual’s ability to focus their attention on tasks that are necessary to achieve their goals. This can increase an individual’s ability to manage their cognitive load. Self-regulation allows individuals to learn more effectively, as well as more efficiently.

Other strategies that can be used to move knowledge to long-term memory include chunking and mnemonic devices. Chunking is when you break down large chunks of information into smaller sections. According to Rosser-Majors (2017), when large amounts of information are presented at once, a lot of information does not get kept, so it is easier to comprehend smaller bits of information at a time. In addition, individuals can also frequently learn by reiteration and encoding (Rosser-Majors, 2017). An instance of encoding is the mnemonic device, where you take the first letter of each word that you are trying to remember and form another word. An example of this can be seen in math classes throughout the country. In math class, we are taught the order of operations through a mnemonic device: PEMDAS (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). A mnemonic device is a method of simplifying memorization.

Attention and Perception

Attention and perception are imperative for successfully developing a schema. Attention is being aware of, and assessing the information around you, and dismissing the unnecessary information (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Perception is how you make sense of the information around you and comprehend it (Rosser-Majors, 2017). The three steps of processing memory involve encoding, consolidation, and retrieval. Attention and perception impact how we process information into our memory. An individual’s working memory capacity is limited. So, if an individual is not paying attention to information being presented, it will not be submitted into their working memory. If it is not submitted into working memory, then it cannot be transferred into long-term memory. Likewise, if an individual perceives information to be too complex or irrelevant, the information will not be submitted into their long-term memory. The information we store in our long-term memory is the information we retrieve to use to accommodate our schemas. Therefore, attention and perception are imperative for schema development because they are crucial concepts for attaining the information that we use to create and enhance our schemas.

Types of Knowledge

Memories (knowledge) are a necessary component to processing information effectively. According to Cox et al. (2018), memory is used to encrypt, accumulate, recover, and utilize information. There are different types of memories that originate from different sources. Semantic memory refers to our universal information of the world (Baddeley, Kopelman & Wilson, 2004). Semantic memories are based on notions, meanings and facts. Episodic memory recounts an individual’s experiences or precise events (Baddeley, Kopelman & Wilson, 2004). Autobiographical memories are related to episodic memories. They correlate with experiences that contribute to an individual’s personal identity (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Autobiographical memories connect dates and times of events with associated meanings and emotions and other circumstantial information. Each type of memory contributes a different aspect to the information being processed. If one type of memory is impaired, then an individual would not be able to properly encode and store the information, which would then make retrieval difficult.

False Memory Development

False memory is when an individual remembers an event that did not occur. False memories can be the result of misinterpretation, misrepresentation, or intended implications embedded by others (Rosser-Majors, 2017). Nobody is immune to false memories because everyone has a different perception of information. False memories can affect how we learn effectively because our perceptions influence our information processing. We develop new schemata based on the information that we process and store in our long-term memory, whether that information is correct or not. So, if an individual develops a false memory regarding an experience, they will adjust their schema to accommodate the information they perceive to be true, thus affecting their learning.


In summation, memory development is the increase in knowledge over time and is influenced by an individual’s cognitive development and schemata development. Effective information processing is crucial to our learning process. Without transferring information into our long-term memory, we would forget everything we learn. There are multiple strategies that can be utilized to effectively process information, such as: managing cognitive load, self-regulation, chunking, and mnemonic devices. Attention and perception are vital to schema development because they are necessary concepts for attaining the information used to develop our schemas. There are different types of memories (knowledge), and each type contributes a different aspect to the information being processes and influences how we encode and store the information. Finally, false memories affect how we learn effectively because they influence our perception of information, which, in turn influences our information processing. Each concept discussed provides insight into the complexity of memory develop and its influence on effective learning.


Baddeley, A. D., Kopelman, M. D., & Wilson, B. A. (Eds.). (2004). The essential handbook of memory disorders for clinicians. Chichester, England: J. Wiley.

Chandrasekaran K. Reducing Cognitive Overload among Students through Language Games. Language in India. 2011;11(12):268-276. Accessed October 15, 2018.

Cox, G. E., Hemmer, P., Aue, W. R., & Criss, A. H. (2018). Information and processes underlying semantic and episodic memory across tasks, items, and individuals. Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, 147(4), 545–590.

Lecci, L. B. (2015). Personality. Retrieved from

Rosser-Majors, M. L. (2017). Theories of learning: An exploration. Retrieved from