A term coined by Ulric Neisser to describe the auditory equivalent of iconic memory, the other main component of sensory memory. Echoic memory refers to the 'echo' that remains in your head after the original sound has ended. This is separate from the acoustic code in short-term memory and the Phonological Loop in Working Memory. This is the actual presence of the sounds in your brain, and it only lasts for 2-3 seconds. If you wish to remember a sound for longer than that, you must store it in a more permanent type of memory.

Echoic memory is very good at catching a lot of different stimuli, but you can only retrieve about 5 items from it once you pick what to focus on.

Once your brain selects the important bits from your echoic memory, it plays an initial replay in your short-term memory, where it may be rehearsed with with your acoustic code until it enters your long-term memory.

Years ago, I lived in a "bad neighborhood", and I often heard gunshots. One evening, I heard a series of gunshots, closer than usual: Within a block or so. Even a wuss like me gets blasé about these things after a few years, but this was close enough to give me pause. The shots were very rapid and they were over by the time I started to think about it. So I stopped whatever I was doing and "replayed" the shots: There were five of them, like so: "Bam, ba-bam-bam, bam", if memory serves: I rehearsed it repeatedly, rather struck by the fact that I'd been able to retrieve it. I may have the rhythm wrong after all this time, but there were five of them1.

For what it's worth.

1 I called 911 and they said, "shots fired in West Philly? You don't say! What'll they think of next?" Oh, well.

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