Memory Process



Memory Process


Memory is the processes that are used to acquire, store, retain and later retrieve information.  It involves three domains:






Encoding is the process of getting information into memory. If information or stimuli never gets encoded, it will never be remembered.  Encoding requires linking new information to existing knowledge in order to make the new information more meaningful.  The quality of remembering or retrieving information later is directly linked to the degree with which new information can be connected or assimilated with existing knowledge.  Selective attention explains why we may encode some stimuli and not others.  Encoding is also affected by divided attention, which occurs when a person is paying attention to more than one thing at the same time. 



Storage consists of retention of information over time.  It is believed that we can accumulate information in three main storage areas that vary according to time frames: sensory memory, short-term (or working) memory, and long-term memory.


Memory is divided into three functions for storage:





Because there is no need for us to remember everything we experience, the different stages of memory function as a sort of filter.  The first stage of memory is Sensory Memory which holds information coming in through the senses for a period ranging from a fraction of a second to several seconds.  Information is held long enough to process.  It can hold vast amount, but only briefly. 


Short Term Memory is the second stage of memory which holds about seven (5-9) items for less than 30 seconds without rehearsal; working memory; the mental workspace we use to keep in mind tasks we are thinking about at any given moment.  Short-term memory is what we are thinking about or aware of at a certain moment.  It is used to have conversations, solve problems, and remember to complete task. 


Long-Term Memory is the relatively permanent memory system with a virtually unlimited capacity. 


Sensory Memory Holds information coming in through the senses for a period ranging from a fraction of a second to several seconds
Short Term Memory (STM) Holds about seven items for no more than 20 or 30 seconds at a time without rehearsal.
Long-Term Memory (LTM) Holds information for a long period of time with a virtually unlimited capacity



The sensory memory retains an exact copy of what is seen or heard but it only lasts for a few seconds milliseconds after an item is perceived.  It has unlimited capacity, but information is stored very briefly in the sensory memory.  We attend to only certain aspects of this sensory memory, allowing some of this information to pass into the next stage which is short-term memory.  Visual sensory memory is called iconic memory, and auditory sensory memory is called echoic memory.


Paying attention to sensory memories generates the information in short-term memory.  Selective attention determines what information moves from sensory memory to short-term memory.  Short-term memory allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute without rehearsal.  The capacity of short term memory is very limited.  It is thought to be about seven bits in length, that is, we normally remember seven items. However, memory capacity can be increased through a process called chunking.  Short-term memory provides a working space for short computations and then transfers it to other parts of the memory system or discards it.  Short-term memory lasts up to 30 seconds, but this can also be expanded by maintenance rehearsal.  Researchers have introduced the concept of working memory, a system that holds information while we are thinking.  Rather than being just a temporary information storage system, working memory is an active system.  Information can be kept in working memory while people process or examine it.  


The storage in both sensory memory and short-term memory generally have a strictly limited capacity and duration, which means that information is available only for a certain period of time, but is not retained indefinitely.  While many of our short-term memories are quickly forgotten, attending to this information allows it to continue on the next stage which is long-term memory.


Long-Term Memory is relatively permanent storage.  Long-term memory can store large quantities of information for potentially unlimited duration, and we can efficiently retrieve information from long-term memory.  Unlike sensory and short-term memory, which are limited and decay rapidly, long-term memory can store unlimited amounts of information indefinitely.  Information is stored on the basis of meaning and importance.  Long-term memory has been classified into many types of memories, based on the content and purpose of the information.  




Retrieval is the process of getting information out of memory.  The ability to access and retrieve information from memory allows us to actually use these memories to make decisions, interact with others, and solve problems.



Memory Strategies


Optimal memory and studying strategies should be utilized to maximize learning.  The purpose of encoding strategies is to improve one’s ability to transfer information from short-term memory (STM) to long-term memory (LTM). These strategies involve the development of schemes or networks in order to move information into LTM.  The purpose of retrieval strategies is to improve one’s ability to transfer information from long-term memory back to short-term memory.


Apply strategies to improve encoding, storing and retrieving information including:


  • · pay close attention
  • · Develop motivation for remembering
  • · Be confident about ability to remember
  • · minimize distractions
  • · Focus on what you want to remember
  • · take written notes
  • · Draw diagrams
  • · Use mental imagery
  • · create Mind map
  • · Make connections between new material and knowledge in LTM
    consciously organize the information being memorized
  • · understand the material (rather than simply memorizing it)
  • · ask yourself questions as you process information
  • · make connections between related topics
  • · use mnemonic (method of loci, acronyms, linking, and visualization)
  • · spread out the study sessions
  • · use the SQ4R or PQ4R method



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