What is Memory?
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. Human memory involves the ability to both preserve and recover information we have learned or experienced. As we all know, however, this is not a flawless process. Sometimes we forget or misremember things. Sometimes things are not properly encoded in memory in the first place.
Memory problems can range from minor annoyances like forgetting where you left your car keys to major diseases, like Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia, that affect the quality of life and the ability to function. The study of human memory has been a subject of science and philosophy for thousands of years and has become one of the major topics of interest within cognitive paychology.
Definition of Memory
1. According to Magdougall, "Memory means to imagine the experience of past events and to recognize that they are past experiences in their own right."
2. According to Stout, "memory is the ideal repetition in which the experiences of the past are awakened in the same order and manner as they occurred before."
3. According to Woodworth, "memory is the direct use of learned experiences."
Phases of Memory
(i) Learning:- Memory is based only on the recording of learning or experiences. Therefore, the first stage of memory is the learning of an object or fact. The conscious mind does the work of learning. In this stage, the experiences of life are imprinted in our mind in the form of mental impressions and when necessary they come again in the present consciousness.
(ii) Retention:- Retaining the learned text or rituals permanently in the mind is called dharana. Remember that the power to hold is found in different amounts in each person. The longer a person holds something in his mind, the better his memory is said to be. The holding power of the students i.e. adolescents and adolescent girls is more than that of the adults.
(iii) Recall:- Bringing dry experiences to consciousness is called Pratyamaran. Whether a person's memory is good or bad depends only on recalling his past experiences. No matter how well he has learned, it is in vain if he cannot remember anything when needed. Remember that a person has to face many difficulties while remembering those things which a person does not wear properly.
(iv) Recognition:- Seeing an object or a person, to tell that we have seen it before is called identification. In other words, identity is the mental process by which we come in contact with some object or person and tell what is or who is the person and when we got acquainted with it. Remember that recognition and recall have the same relation as the mind has with the body.
How Memories are Formed?
In order to form new memories, information must be changed into usable form, which occurs through the process known as encoding. On the information has been successfully encoded, it must be stored in memory for later use.
Much of this stored memory lies outside of our awareness most of the time, except when we actually need to use it. The retrieval process allows us to bring stored memories into conscious awareness.
Types of Memory
1. Sensory Memory
Sensory memory refers to the brief storage of sensory information. Sensory memory is a memory buffer that lasts only very briefly and then, unless it is attended to and passed on for more processing, is forgotten. The purpose of sensory memory is to give the brain some time to process the incoming sensations, and to allow us to see the world as an unbroken stream of events rather than as individual pieces.
2. Short-Term Memory
Most of the information that gets into sensory memory is forgotten, but information that we turn our attention to, with the goal of remembering it, may pass into short-term memory. Short-term memory (STM) is the place where small amounts of information can be temporarily kept for more than a few seconds but usually for less than one minute. Information in short-term memory is not stored permanently but rather becomes available for us to process, and the processes that we use to make sense of, modify, interpret, and store information in STM are known as working memory.
Methods of Memorization
Having a better memory isn’t just helpful to remember your family’s go-to pot roast recipe, it’s also an important skill to have at work. Whether it’s remembering the name of someone you met at a conference or recalling figures or dates during a meeting with your team, a good memory is good for business. Our brain memorizes information in four steps: attention, encoding, storage, and retrieval.
1. Attention:- Let’s say you’re in a meeting and one of your colleagues pitches a marketing idea. The information enters your brain through sensory receptors. They will hold on to this information for mere seconds while your brain filters it and hopefully deems it important. Only when you consciously perceive information, will it be passed onto the next step.
2. Encoding:- It looks like your colleague’s pitch was good because your brain is now encoding the information. In this step, it will either be moved into your short-term memory or working memory. Your short-term memory will hold the information for a few seconds, while in your working memory, you can retain it for up to 20 minutes. This can be helpful when solving a math problem or cleaning up an Excel sheet but it won’t help you recall your colleague’s pitch during the client call next Thursday.
3. Storage:- Moving information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory is an active step. Your brain can’t make this decision for you, you’ll have to memorize it using a technique that works for you—but we’ll get to that in a minute.
4. Retrieval:- How you pay attention, encode, and store information will affect how well you can retrieve it at a later point in time. The more time that passes between the last two steps, storage and retrieval, the more important it is to revisit and review the information frequently so it stays fresh in your mind.
Factors Affecting Memory
Memory as stated already, is a process which includes learning, retention and remembering. As such all the three processes are important for good memory. Factors that Influence Memory Process in Humans are as follows:
1. Ability to retain:- This depends upon good memory traces left in the brain by past experiences.
2. Good health:- A person with good health can retain the learnt material better than a person with poor health.
3. Age of the learner:- Youngsters can remember better than the aged.
4. Maturity:- Very young children cannot retain and remember complex material.
5. Will to remember:- Willingness to remember helps for better retention.
6. Intelligence:- More intelligent person will have better memory than a dull person.
7. Interest:- If a person has more interest, he will learn and retain better.
8. Sleep or rest:- Sleep or rest immediately after learning strengthens connections in the brain and helps for clear memory.
Causes of Forgetting
1. Lack of sleep:- Not getting enough sleep is perhaps the greatest unappreciated cause of forgetfulness. Too little restful sleep can also lead to mood changes and anxiety, which in turn contribute to problems with memory.
2. Medications:- Tranquilizers, antidepressants, some blood pressure drugs, and other medications can affect memory, usually by causing sedation or confusion. That can make it difficult to pay close attention to new things. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you suspect that a new medication is taking the edge off your memory.
3. Underactive Thyroid:- A faltering thyroid can affect memory (as well as disturb sleep and cause depression, both of which can be causes of forgetfulness). A simple blood test can tell if your thyroid is doing its job properly.
4. Alcohol:- Drinking too much alcohol can interfere with short-term memory, even after the effects of alcohol have worn off. Although "too much" varies from person to person, it’s best to stick with the recommendation of no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one a day for women. One drink is generally defined as 1.5 ounces (1 shot glass) of 80-proof spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
5. Stress and Anxiety:- Anything that makes it harder to concentrate and lock in new information and skills can lead to memory problems. Stress and anxiety fill the bill. Both can interfere with attention and block the formation of new memories or the retrieval of old ones.
6. Depression:- Common signs of depression include a stifling sadness, lack of drive, and lessening of pleasure in things you ordinarily enjoy. Forgetfulness can also be a sign of depression or a consequence of it.