Memory refers to the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain, and later retrieve information. There are three major processes involved in memory: Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval.
To use the encoded information into memory, it first retrieved. There are many factors that can influence how memories are retrieved such as the type of information being used and the retrieval cues that are present. Memory is both a result of and an influence on perception, attention, and learning. The basic pattern of remembering consists of attention to an event followed by the representation of that event in the brain.
Types of Memory
The stage model of memory is often explains the basic structure and function of memory. Initially proposed in 1968 by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin, this theory outlines three separate stages of memory: Sensory memory, Short-term memory, and Long-term memory.
1. Sensory Memory
Sensory memory is the earliest stage of memory. In this stage, they store sensory information from the environment for a very brief period of time. Generally for no longer than a half-second for visual information and 3 or 4 seconds for auditory information. A common analogy for sensory memory is that the memories are your “raw data” that your brain then processes to make sense and order. We attend to only certain aspects of this sensory memory, allowing some of this information to pass into the next stage. The knowledge of how sensory memory affects us is important in the study of memory and aging. Because sensory memory is a first input that helps to build a person’s short- and long-term memories, knowing that it slows down with aging can help to understand why and where memory starts to decline.
2. Short-Term Memory
Short-term memory, also known as active memory, is the information we are currently aware of or thinking about. Paying attention to sensory memories generates information in short-term memory. It is the capacity to store a small amount of information in the mind and keep it readily available for a short period of time. Most of the information in short-term memory stores information only for approximately 20 to 30 seconds.
- Short-term memory is very brief. When we don’t rehearse short-term memories then they lasts for mere seconds.
- Short-term memory is limited. Short-term memory can hold only seven items at once, plus or minus two.
The information in short-term memory is also highly susceptible to interference. Any new information that enters short-term memory will quickly displace old information. Similar items in the environment can also interfere with short-term memories. We generally forget some memories which are in our short term memory. Attending to this information allows it to continue to the next stage: long-term memory.
3. Long-Term Memory
Long-term memory refers to the continuing storage of information over an extended period. This type of memory tends to be stable and can last a long time—often for years. Long-term memories are often outside of the conscious mind. Some memories are relatively easy to recall, while others are much harder to access. Through the process of association and rehearsal, the content of short term memory can become long-term memory. Long-term memories can last for a matter of days to as long as many decades.
It is further subdivided into two different types: explicit (conscious) and implicit (unconscious) memory.
- Explicit memories, also known as declarative memories, include all of the memories that are available in consciousness. Explicit memory can be further divided into episodic memory (specific events) and semantic memory (knowledge about the world).
- Implicit memories are those that are mostly unconscious. This type of memory includes procedural memory, which involves memories of body movement and how to use objects in the environment. How to drive a car or use a computer are examples of procedural memories.
Some Tips to Remember
No matter how great your memory is, there are probably a few things you can do to make it even better. Fortunately, cognitive psychologists have discovered a number of techniques that can help improve memory:
- Jot it down. Writing with a pen and paper helps implant the memory into your brain and can also serve as a reminder
- Attach meaning to it. You can remember something more easily if you attach meaning to it. For instance, if you associate a person you just met with someone you already know, you may be able to remember their name easier.
- Repeat it. Repetition helps the memory become encoded beyond your short-term memory.
- Group it. Categorizing information becomes easier to remember and recall. For example, consider the following group of words: Desk, apple, bookshelf, red, plum. Spend a few seconds reading them, then look away and try to recall and list these words.
In addition to these techniques, keep your brain healthy with exercising regularly, maintaining social connections, managing stress, and performing challenging activities. Challenging Activities boosts memory.