Encoding, Storage, Retrieval

Memory is defined as the encoding, storage and the retrieval of stored information once needed. Three forms of encoding are used which are acoustic, visual and semantic. The three types of retrieval systems used by memory are recall, recognition and re-learning. Focus is on the amount of information stored (capacity), the length of time it is stored (duration) and the way information is stored (acoustic, visual or semantic).


Encoding is the processing of information in some form into memory. Psychologists focus on acoustic encoding (sound), visual encoding (picture) and semantic encoding (meaning).

Acoustic Encoding

Acoustic encoding is holding information in your memory in the form of sound. An example of this is when we are given a mobile number to remember; we repeat it to ourselves to maintain the memory acoustically until we get a pen to write it down.

Visual Encoding

Visual encoding is when we process information visually in the form of a picture in our mind. An example of how information is encoded visually is; think about how big your garden is? – If you are picturing your garden in your mind right now trying to answer this, this is an example of visual encoding.

Semantic Encoding

Semantic encoding refers to encoding something through its meaning. An example of this;

Name David Beckhams spouse and all his children.

To think about this you may involve some visual processing as you picture them together but you will need to think about what the word spouse means to decipher its his partner, then you may ask yourself how many children he has and this may involve some visualisation. As you visualise them you may begin to ask yourself what their names are; as you dig deeper like this trying to decipher the meanings behind the pictures you see in your mind, this is semantic encoding.


The storage of information focuses on 3 things:

  • The amount that is stored
  • The length of time it is stored
  • And the way the information is organised within the stores.

Dependent on the explanation of memory for which we are focusing on, this will vary between theories.


Once information is stored there also needs to be a process to retrieve this information and this is done in 3 different ways we will focus on:

  • Recall: This type of retrieval is associated with remembering information as we search out memory. For example we may be asked a question such as “What is the capital of Thailand?” – To answer this we may need to recall the answer which is located within our memory.
  • Recognition: This involves us being presented with items and being asked if we remember any of them from a previous exposure.
  • Re-learning: Re-learning involves us being exposed to something we may have learn’t previously but have since forgotten (or so we think) and then once exposed to it again later, we are tasked with re-learning this information but it usually doesn’t take as long as it did to initially learn it and we pick it up much faster. An example of this may be a song we knew when we were younger but have since forgotten; When exposed to it as an adult we may re-learn it faster.

How to reference/cite this information:

Processes of encoding, storage and retrieval – https://gcsepsychology.com/processes-of-encoding-storage-and-retrieval/


How do psychologists define memory?

Memory is defined as the encoding, storage and retrieval of information

What are the three forms of encoding our memory uses?
  • Acoustic encoding (sound)
  • Visual encoding (sight: Pictures)
  • Semantic encoding (meaning)
What are the three types of retrieval system used by memory?
  • Recall
  • Recognition
  • Re-learning
What three aspects of memory storage do we consider?
  • The amount stored
  • The length of time it is stored
  • The way in which information is stored within memory

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