Memory is the mental function of the human brain that allows us to acquire, store and recall information, sensations, impressions, thoughts and feelings one experiences in life. In psychology these three processes or stages are called encoding, storing and retrieval. Any experience faced by us is saved in the memory and depending on its characteristics or nature; they last in our brain for either a short time or a very long time.
The Process Of Memory
1. Encoding: when any information is received it needs to be “converted” in order for it to be stored in the memory. This allows the outside information to reach our senses through different stimuli. There are three ways in which information is received: Visual, Acoustic and Semantic.
2. Storage: after encoding, the keeping of the memory in the brain is called storage. And depending upon its need and use it stays or fades away. Researchers say that adults can save 7 to 9 information or items in their short term memory at a time.
3. Retrieval: recalling information from storage is called retrieval. If we are unable to recall some information it is usually because we are unable to retrieve it.
Types Of Memory
There are three main types of memory; sensory memory, short term memory and long term memory.
1. Sensory Memory:
All the information that is processed by our 5 senses comes under sensory memory. Meaning everything our eyes, ears, nose, hands, tongue feels. But the memory stays for a brief amount of time-less than a second. There are three main types that have been studied; Iconic Memory (Visual), Echoic Memory (Hearing) and Haptic Memory (Touch).
2. Short Term Memory:
Short Term Memory, also called working memory, stores all the information required at a given time. All the thoughts and feelings we think at that moment are stored in short term memory. It can also be called a temporary storage because unless information is not rehearsed, it decays away. Moreover, as mentioned above the capacity to save memory in short term is also very limited and small (7 to 9 in adults).
3. Long Term Memory:
Long Term Memory holds memory for a long time sometimes even forever. And unlike short term memory, its capacity is unlimited. It consists of everything we learned from when we were children to yesterday’s assignment. It has further two types:
A) Explicit Memory (Conscious recall): the kind of information you constantly study or work. Like formulas, facts etc. This has further two types; Semantic Memory- recall of general information and facts and Episodic Memory- all the events one experiences personally.
B) Implicit Memory (Unconscious recall); the kind of information we unintentionally remember and put no effort in remembering it like song lyrics, habits etc.
From this we can say that when any information is picked up, it is stored in the sensory memory and immediately encoded to short term memory. If there is constant rehearsal of that information it gets shifted to long term memory from where retrieval is possible, otherwise the information gets forgotten and unprocessed.
Theory Of Forgetting
Theory of forgetting is the inability to retrieve information although it is stored in the long term memory. A few reasons as to why this happens include time lapse or interference of other material. Although basic knowledge tells us that the main reason of this is the increase in age when the retention interval starts to decrease and old memories start decaying away, and thus people start to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. But surprisingly, the decaying and forgetting differs from individual to individual; the science is still unclear as to why some people remember everything even in old age whilst some people suffer memory loss in their young ages.
Techniques To Improve Memory
Having a sharp brain can help in many ways one can think of, so whether you’re trying to study for an exam or boost your mental performance these techniques are just for you:
- Spaced Practice: alternate between studying and resting, your brain needs rest as well!
- Have proper sleeping and eating schedules
- Write things down
- Make up stories or silly sentences
- Visually imagine
- Read more
- Practice and practice
- Use acronyms
- Chunking information; breaking down words or information into chunks like wed-nes-day
- Use of mnemonics; making a song or rhythm to remember large information like “Some People Have, Curly Brown Hair, Through Proper Brushing”
These techniques definitely do work and although some are long term, but they end up showing results in no time. You’ll start to see the difference yourself soon enough.