The Brain and Memory
The process of encoding a memory starts when we are born and continues for the rest of our lives. For something to become a memory, it has to be picked up by one or more of our senses. All memories start off in short-term storage. One example is how we learn to tie our shoes. Once we have the process down, it goes into our long-term memory and we can do it without really thinking about the steps involved!
Emotionally charged events are remembered better than those of neutral events. You will never forget some events, such as the joy of the birth of your first child or sibling, or the horror of the 9/11 terrorist attack or the bombing of the Boston Marathon. The stress hormones, epinephrine and cortisol, enhance memory and consolidate memory contents. In evolutionary terms, it’s logical for us to imprint dangerous situations with extra clarity so that we can avoid them in the future.
Types of Memories
For more information about how long and short term memories form, check out this article about types of memory by Kim Zimmerman at LiveScience: https://www.livescience.com/43713-memory.html
Test Your Memory!
Now You See It, Now You Don't
Let's take a look at your short term memory. First, gather a group of people to test this out on, or enlist the help of an adult to test you and a few friends! Then, get a plate or clear a space on a table. Put about ten small items on the plate (such as an eraser or coin), then cover them with a towel or cloth. Tell your group that you have a bunch of objects on the tray and that you want them to remember as much as they can. Make sure everyone knows that they will only have one minute to view them. Then take off the cover from the plate/table and start the timer for 60 seconds. After the time is up, return the cloth to hide the objects. Have everyone write down all the items that they can remember. Could they remember everything or were there any items that were forgotten by everyone?
Grab a phone book and look up a random number. If you don’t have one at home, most public libraries have them on hand, or you can try checking online. Take about one minute to memorize the phone number. Could you remember the number five minutes later? One hour later? How about six hours later or the next day? If you can remember the number a day later, try to find out how long you can recall it without looking it up again!
“What is Memory”. http://www.human-memory.net/intro_what.html. Retrieved 10/5/17.
Hawthorne, John. "Your Memory is an Amazing Thing. Here's How Your Memory Works." https://www.vitamonk.com/blogs/health/how-your-memory-works.
Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Memory Definition & Types of Memory”. Purch: Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/43713-memory.html
Farouk Radwan, M. “Why do we remember certain things but forget others”. 2KnowMyself: https://www.2knowmyself.com/why_do_we_remember_certain_things_but_forget_others
Royon, Michel. “Human Brain Anatomy in Robotics”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 9/24/17 from commons.wikimedia.org
Kelley, Leah. “Close-Up of Pictures”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 9/24/17 from pexels.com
Fowler, Orson Squire. “Memory and Intellectual Improvement…” Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 9/24/17 from commons.wikimedia.org
Stachowiak, Kai. “X-Ray Photograph”. Released into the public domain. Uploaded on 9/24/17 from publicdomainpictures.net