Memory is a term used in cognitive psychology to describe the process by which information is coded, stored and retrieved. Encoding involves the conversion of sensory stimuli into forms that can be stored. Storage is the process of forming long term mental records of the information.
Retrieval is the process of extracting information from memory. Memory can be classified into sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory. Memory can be enhanced using techniques such as rehearsal, paying attention, use of mnemonics, and active participation. Active participation is thought to be better than rehearsal. Memory can be tested using techniques such as operant conditioning, recognition, free recall, and detection paradigm.
Memory is a mental function that enables humans to keep information for later use. It can also be described as a term used in cognitive psychology to describe how people encode, store and retrieve information about the environment (Gazzaniga, Ivry, & Mangun, 1998). This essay will begin with a discussion about memory processes.
This will be followed by a section on classification of memory into sensory, short term, and long term memory. The various types of memory will be discussed in detail. Methods of studying memory will also be examined in this paper. Finally, it will end in a section on personal reflection.
The stages of memory formation include encoding, storage, and retrieval. Information passes the three stages sequentially. Encoding generates information that can stored. Stimuli reaching the brain are received and processed into forms that can be used to represent the stimuli. Encoding generates verbal, acoustic, and image codes. These codes provide avenues by which information can be retrieved. Therefore, it can be said that retrieval relies on encoding. Interpretation of the codes is a function of memory.
Storage can be described as creation of a long term record in the brain. Storage is a complex stage of memory formation that involves other sub-stages. At this level, the coded information is received and packaged in a manner that will allow its retrieval later. Information may be stored in a hierarchical manner.
For example, skills that are frequently used may be moved to the subconscious portion of the mind. Depending on how long information has been in storage, memory can be classified into sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory.
Sensory memory is a part of memory that holds information from the environment for a short time. The information is stored for a period of time ranging from a fraction of a second to about a minute. It provides temporary storage for information generated by the sensory organs. It stores the information in the original sensory form.
Examples of sensory memory include iconic memory and echoic memory. Iconic memory carries visual information and lasts for almost 25 seconds. It is a temporary storage for visual information. Echoic memory is a temporary storage for information coming from the ears. Echoic memory lasts for several seconds. Haptic memory is creates a temporary record of tactile information. Information coming from the sensory system is rich in content. However, human beings cannot convert all the information into memory forms.
Short term memory
Short term memory also known as working memory is a form of memory that lasts for several seconds to a minute. Rehearsal can improve short term memory. Short term memory can store a limited amount of information at a time. It can store up to five distinct items at any given time (Cowan, 2001).
However, it has been found out that grouping items like numbers can improve short term memory. Short term memory enables the manipulation of information when attending to activities like decision making and problem solving. It is the form of memory that is constantly in use and allows an individual to interact effectively with the environment. Short term memory may rely on acoustic codes. However, this is not true for all types of information.
Long term memory
Long term memory is a relatively long term form of memory where vast amounts of information are stored. Its capacity is thought to be limitless. Long term memory enables us to recall events that took place several years back. Long term memory is our main repository of information. It shapes our understanding of the environment. Types of repositories in the long term memory include declarative, procedural, and flash back memories.
Declarative memory also known as explicit memory is a form of long term memory that requires the conscious recall of information that can be verbalized. For example, describing the process of neurotransmission to students. Declarative memory is further classified into episodic memory and semantic memory. Episodic memory involves storage of information regarding events that were personally experienced.
It enables an individual to recall events that happened at a certain time in the past. It is a form of memory that stores personal experiences. Semantic memory is personalized. It stores general, factual, and abstract information. Information about ones area of expertise, academic knowledge, knowledge of places, knowledge of people, and knowledge about meaning of words is stored in semantic memory. Learning relies on semantic memory.
Procedural memory is memory that stores psychomotor skills. Information needed to execute certain skills like driving and playing a musical instrument are stored in procedural memory. It stores knowledge that cannot be verbalized but is important in the performance of some activities. It has been described as memory that stores information about how to do things.
Flash back memory stores information that is associated with emotional moments. Events that are linked to certain emotions can be recalled quickly and more accurately. For example, asking people where they were when a close family member passed away. Flash back memory is concerned with storage of unusual events. It tends to be personal in nature.
Retrieval is the process of accessing and taking information out of storage. Typically, information is pulled out of storage when it is needed. Retrieval can be complicated by factors like lack of concentration and interference. Retrieval is associated with certain recall states like tip of the tongue, and serial position effect.
Tip of the tongue refers to a state in which one cannot recall all the information. In such a case an individual is able to only retrieve or recall some characteristics of the information. Serial position effect refers to a situation in which an individual can recall either the first few items (primary effect) or the last items of a list (recency effect). Recall can be prompted using either specific or general retrieval cues.
Forgetting is described as difficulty in retrieving information. Inability to recall information has been linked to some factors like decay, interference, lack of cues, and presence of disorders like amnesia. Decay refers to inability to recall due to disappearance of information over time. This happens when information is not frequently rehearsed or used. Information that is not needed can interfere with retrieval of information (Ellenbogen et al, 2006). This can occur when retrieval cues are no longer specific.
Factors facilitating memory
Rehearsal: repeating and reciting information enhances the number of meaningful associations that can be formed. Memory improves with the number of rehearsals. Self-questioning strategies can be used to enhance this technique. Self-questioning strategies increase the number of associations that can be formed by learners.
Organization: information can be arranged in a particular way to enhance memory. Chunking is one of the strategies used to organize information. Meaningfulness: this strategy encourages students to personalize information by giving personal meaning to it. This strategy is superior to reciting and rehearsing. It is easy to recall information that has meaning. This strategy enables a learner to relate what is being learned with real life situations thus forming long term memory.
Mnemonic devices: these memory aids include loci, acronyms, and key words. Loci method involves positioning of items to be remembered in specific areas of the house. An individual will use a mental map to locate the items in the house thus aiding memory.
Activity: this strategy is used to enhance memory by encouraging students to actively participate in their learning.
Attention/concentration: attention and elimination of distractions enhances learning and the formation of memory.
Methods used to study memory
Techniques used to study memory differ for infants and adults. The methods used to study infants are unique because infants cannot report on what they have learned. Methods used to study infants’ recognition memory are: operant conditioning and visual paired comparison procedure. The methods used to study infants’ recall memory are: deferred imitation technique and elicited imitation technique (Barr, Dowden, & Hayne, 1996).
Methods used to study adults: paired associate learning, recognition, free recall, and detection paradigm. Paired associate learning is a technique that involves learning to associate one item with another. Free recall involves asking subjects to learn some words. The subjects are then asked to recall the items. Detection paradigm tests the ability to remember visual information.
This paper discussed memory in detail. Memory is a term used in cognitive psychology to describe the process by which information is coded, stored and retrieved.
Encoding involves the conversion of sensory stimuli into forms that can be stored. Storage is the process of forming long term mental records of the information. Retrieval is the process of extracting information from memory. Memory can be classified into sensory memory, short term memory, and long term memory. Long term memory is the storehouse of knowledge about our surroundings.
Memory can be enhanced using techniques such as rehearsal, paying attention, use of mnemonics, and active participation. Active participation is thought to be better than rehearsal. Memory can be tested using various techniques. The techniques used to test infants are different from those used to test older children and adults. This is due to the fact that infants cannot verbalize what they have learned. In infants, recognition memory and recall memory are tested separately. Therefore, it is difficult to study children.
Barr, R., Dowden, A., & Hayne, H. (1996). Developmental changes in deferred imitation by 6- to 24-month-old infants. Infant Behavior and Development, 19, 159–170.
Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behav Brain Sci, 24(1), 87–114.
Ellenbogen et al. (2006). Interfering with theories of sleep and memory: sleep, declarative memory, and associative interference. Curr. Biol., 16 (13), 1290–4. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2006.05.024
Gazzaniga, M., Ivry, R., & Mangun, G. (1998). Cognitive neuroscience: The biology of the mind. London: Norton.