The Truth Behind Human Memory and How You Can Improve Yours
Why can we remember some facts and not others? Why do some individuals have better memories than other people? These are questions you may have pondered. All of us have gone through an experience where we try our hardest to remember something only to forget it a few minutes later. Why does this happen? The answer is not simple. Human memory is quite complex and there are many moving parts that work together to make it what it is.
Let’s begin with the basics. There are 3 key processes of memory : encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding involves forming a memory code. Storage is when we maintain that information over time. Lastly, retrieval is when we recover that information at necessary times. These key processes are important to understand when talking about memory. There are also 3 levels of processing. Structural is when you focus on the composition of the object. Phonemic is when you pay close attention to the sound. Semantic, the deepest level, is when you think about the actual meaning of the word. You tend to remember objects and words more if you think about it from a semantic point of view.It is also important to differentiate between short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory has a limited capacity. In fact, one can store between 7 and 9 items for about 20 seconds in short-term memory. On the other hand, long-term memory has an unlimited capacity over long periods of time.
What determines what we remember? There are a multitude of factors but one major one is if it is personally relevant, known as self-referent encoding. In other words, recall rate can be improved when people are asked to remember information that is, in some way, related to them. We also tend to remember things that occurred during momentous events, known as flashbulb memories. For example, many people remember exactly what they were doing during 9/11 because it was a major event. Sometimes we can’t remember certain things due to the fact that we just never encoded them in the first place. Lucky for you, there are ways to improve your memory. According to the dual coding theory, you can enhance your memory by forming visual and semantic codes. Rehearsal and constantly repeating information causes your short-term memory to last longer. You can also improve memory by creating schemas or mental categories about an object based on a specific experience.