Memory processes

Can u remember everything you did yesterday? What about last week or how about your first day at school? Yesterday will probably be easy but the further you go back they more faded the memory may be.

Memory is the process involved in retaining, retrieving and using information of what we seen and heard, after the original event has happened.

Like all things of the mind, memory is not a straightforward process. It involves many complex stages to become a long held memory in our minds for years to come. There are three stages known as The Modal of Memory:

Courtesy of OpenBCI.com

First stage is known as Sensory memory:

▪ This stages holds all information for seconds or fractions of a second.

▪ All unattended sensory input is lost.

Second stage as Short-Term memory:

▪ This stage holds information that we have paid attention to for 15 to 20 seconds.

▪ We can only hold five to seven items during this time in our memory.

▪ Rehearsal ( like repeating a phone number) allows for the memory to stay longer in our thoughts, otherwise it get lost.

Last stage is known as Long-Term memory:

▪ This stage is where we transfer memories into our minds for years or even decades.

▪ There is unlimited capacity for the amount of memories we can hold here.

▪ Although, some information may be lost or become faded over time.

Think of memories like muscles, the more you use them the more stronger they become.

In a classic study conducted by George Miller “Seven plus or minus two”, our short-term memory has the capacity to hold five to nine items. Recent studies have shown that this can be expanded by ‘chunking’. This means putting smaller units together to create more larger meaningful units. A good example of this is with phone numbers instead of 4-1-7-1-2-3-4 it easier to remember as 417-1234.

An excellent technique to help you with studying, here’s a video to grasp the concept more:

Courtesy of YouTube.

What’s really interesting about memories is that sometimes they can be false. As we go about in our daily lives we are susceptible to people or events altering our memories, there has been lots of research on this phenomena known as: The Misinformation effect. A study conducted by Elizabeth Loftus and coworkers found they could alter participants memories of a video they has watched by given them false post event information of the video.

If you find more about her work and find her as fascinating as I do, check out some of the main contribution to psychology on this link.

So back to my question at the start, but this time let me add some changes…. can you remember yesterday, accurately? Yes? But what about your first day at school? Still think it’s accurate? Over the years information you have pick up from stories other people tell of that day like your mom or maybe older sister may have altered they memory from what it originally was.

Might be a good idea to keep a diary…. to keep the record straight!😉

Cognitive Psychology

The mind is something we use constantly, yet we never give much thought to how it works. One way psychologist try to understand these internal processes is called Cognitive Psychology. This is the scientific study of the mind and its mental processes. Simply put it involves knowing, remembering, understanding, communicating and learning. But our minds are extremely complex and sometimes we can get things wrong! Here is a funny and informative crash course video in what exactly Cognitive Psychology is all about and how sometimes cognition is not always logical:

Courtesy of YouTube

After watching that video what do you think about your concepts for certain things and prototypes? Do you thing they limit your ideas of the world? Some food for thought! Another interesting cognitive process is heuristics. This simple strategy of short-cuts our brain takes to help navigate the thousands mental processes throughout our day-to-day lives. Notice the next time you go shopping how you go straight to certain aisles without much thought and how you didn’t even need to really give it much thought. 

One way psychologist studied cognition was through behavioral approach. Gias et al. (2007) studied the effects of sleep on memory consolidation. They found those who went to sleep straight after learning a particular piece of information remembered it better then those who had not slept until a couple of hours later. This is because sleep helps us to store memories in our hippocampus, the area of the brain strongly linked to memory.

A great excuse next time you fall asleep in class! 

Cognitive Psychology is a relatively new area of research in Psychology but there are lots of exciting new discoveries being made. If you want learn more about how we process information or how we create habits, check out this link to Simple Psychology for more fascinating facts.