Understanding Memory: The Wrap Up

In this topic we have looked at the three steps of memory:

  1. identifying information and encoding it to your memory (Understanding Memory – Step 1 Encoding Information)
  2. storing memories (Understanding Memory – Step 2 Storing Information)
  3. recalling memories (Understanding Memory – Step 3 Recalling Information)

In the final post for the month we will wrap up our look at memory.

Check out some helpful graphics on our Pinterest page to visualise these concepts – click Memory to go straight to the relevant pinboard.

Final Thoughts and Summary

Memory is an integral part of our minds, and really cannot be separated from the other brain functions such as thinking, being creative and feeling. The brain works as an integrated whole.

For the purposes of this topic’s posts, we took a look at the encoding, storing and decoding processes. Of course in real life, each memory is not a discrete thing, each dealt with in turn. The brain processes multiple thoughts at the same time so is encoding one thing whilst decoding another. This helps us to understand how our memories are so fallible. Our memory is associative, and is always trying to make connections. Connections form as things go in and out of memory. The mind makes these associations constantly. These often involve all sorts of cognitive leaps, imagination and intuitive leaps. We add 1 + 1 and come up with some great answers and insights.

As technology, particularly artificial intelligence, grows into our daily lives, we need to understand what makes us important. Understanding memory is critical to this understanding of what tasks a human does best and which ones should be left to the technology. Computers are great at remembering our facts in a detached objective way. We are great at using our minds to come up with truly intelligent insights from technical inventions to empathetic emotional intelligence. But we can’t make these insights without building our own intelligence and memory is critical to this.

The best thing is that each person has a unique long term memory which takes the best of their experiences in life to create a powerful tool for solving problems. Applying that mind to the problems you encounter takes you through the key steps we have looked at:

  • Sensory memory – being able to remember what you see or hear long enough to start to think about it.
  • Attention – crucial to taking information and adding it to your mind – if you don’t notice it you won’t remember it.
  • Working memory – the workhorse of your mind where thoughts are repeated, pruned and organised and added to long term memory as you sleep.
  • Encoding to long term memory – done from working memory and by encoding deeper in to the mind by making more connections.
  • Storing information and maintaining good neural pathways to it
  • Recalling information by triggering the cues inherent in the memory when it was first remembered.

Working on the power of your memory and understanding how it works is always useful for your professional practice. You can build the capacity of your working memory by learning memory techniques, you can use technology to ease the burden on your memory so you can learn other things and you can simply get enough sleep to help your mind bed in the information better.

Seven Things to Remember about Memory

  1. Attention is crucial to remembering information – use mindfulness to quiet the modern world and focus on the thing you want to remember.
  2. Working memory is about holding information while you process it – you can improve this with memory techniques. Try chunking information by grouping it such as is seen on a mindmap.
  3. Don’t aim to remember lots of facts and figures – technology can do this best for you.
  4. The mind encodes, stores and decodes memories in an organic way – recalling a memory will change it so you cannot rely on your memory as a true store of factual information.
  5. Sleep is vital to take the day’s events and process it deeper in to your mind.
  6. The mind is a network of neural pathways – foster these connections and diversity in how you encode and retrieve information. This gives you flexibility in how you access the information and helps avoid forgetting.
  7. Our age does influence our memory:
    • In early adulthood the brain has just come out of an intense re-organisation in the teenage years and neural connections need to be re-established.
    • From the 50’s onwards we need to be particularly aware of the importance of travelling those neural pathways to keep them maintained. Use it or lose it. Cell loss increases as we age, and if we are not revisiting all our connections then the brain will fail to maintain them. At this stage of life, learning new information also requires a greater level of concentration than before.

That wraps up our look at memory and the next topic on our tech-free winter blog is Human Senses. See you next time.


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