Everything about human memory

It is normal for everyone to store, preserve and then find information again. What people often forget is that remembering things is a fantastic quality. What is memory and what do we do with it? Unlike, for example, the heart or lungs, we cannot point to or photograph memory, because memory is not an organ. Memory is a complex process that allows us to remember information. This process takes place in our brain and consists of three steps: -recording, -storing, -retrieving. Memory is used for various actions such as remembering shopping lists and storing and retrieving childhood memories, but memory also plays an important role in learning to ride a bicycle and play the piano. There are also various conditions that can drastically reduce memory, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

3 Types of Memory

We can distinguish three types of memories:

  • The Sensory Memory (sensory)
  • The Short Term Memory
  • The Long Term Memory

Memory can also be distinguished into explicit and implicit memory.

Sensory Memory

Sensory memory is the memory we use when we receive sensory stimuli. For example, when we smell something, our sensory memory stores that smell for a very short time. The sensory memory has an enormous capacity, but a very short duration. A distinction is made between iconic memory (concerns the image) and echoic memory (concerns sound). The duration of sensory memory is approximately ½ second, but opinions are divided on this.

Short-term memory

To give a small idea of what short-term memory entails, I will give a small example here; Suppose you receive a call and the person on the phone asks you to remember a telephone number. You try to remember the phone number in different ways while you look for a pen and paper. But once you write down the telephone number, the telephone number will disappear from your memory. We speak here of short-term memory. This is intended for briefly storing things that you do not need to keep forever.

Long term memory

Long-term memory stores information that must be stored in the brain for a long time. This type is further divided into declarative and non-declarative memory. In other words, implicit (unconscious) and explicit (conscious). This means that some things are consciously or unconsciously stored in the long-term memory. Take your childhood memories for example, you never had to do anything to remember them. But you can pick them up again. In contrast to this, it is a lot more difficult to revive a chapter of, for example, the French Revolution in ten years’ time. In the first example, implicit memory plays an important role, in the second it is explicit memory.

The workings of memory

The operation of memory is a complicated process, so we divide it into three steps.

The first step: recording information

All information from outside is collected by our senses, for example by our nose and ears. These sensory stimuli are transmitted via nerve pathways to various parts of the brain and processed there. We call all this information from recording and processing, perceiving. When we look for a fallen ring, we look differently than when we watch TV. The purpose of perceiving determines how we perceive. For example, if you lost your precious chain in the shower, you look at it in a controlled and very sharp manner, while on the way to the shower your view seems less sharp. Various things happen on the way to the shower, but because you are so busy with your chain, you don’t notice it anymore. So you process a lot of information without being aware of it. In the shower you focus all your attention on searching. When your father asks you something, you don’t realize it at first because you are focusing on the lost necklace. So it is possible to divide your attention and, if necessary, maintain this until you find the chain. Only when you stop searching and review your actions in your memory will you remember that you took off the necklace in the bedroom. You do this conscious work in your memory in your working memory, while you have also made a small step in the short- and long-term memory.

The second step: storing information

The recorded sensory stimuli are partly stored via the working memory in the long-term memory, which is never full. We can store information in this long-term memory via our own system. Now that your bracelet has been lost, you will better absorb and process putting your bracelet down and thus remember it better. Emotions, such as fear, are an important way of storing information, but this can also be done through the ordered use of time, alphabet or place.

The third step: digging up information

It often takes no effort at all to dig up information, but that is not always the case. Sometimes we have to consciously look things up again. We can improve the search using various clues that we have at our disposal. We use the things just mentioned, such as emotions, etc.

Various conditions can cause memory to be drastically reduced.