We all know that memory is an incredible process..the actual in’s and out’s are still widely disputed and most scientists still have only a vague idea how the multiple processes that make up what we call “memory” work. Some aspects of memory that I will touch on here include;

  1. The 3 step process of encoding, storage, and retrieval.
  2. The trajectory of a memory through the sense (perception), through the short term or “working” memory, and finally into our long term memory. (what we consider remembering)
  3. What happens when we lose a memory.

Encoding – Storage – Retrieval

This is the process through which our brain filters out the stimuli we don’t need which is actually most of what is going on around us. The brain is constantly bombarded by sensations and if it were to consciously acknowledge and process all of it…well..we would probably suffer from sensation overload. Perception takes place in the blink of an eye…literally. It only takes a fraction of a second to establish a sensory impression. The process just discussed is summed up as encoding. This is similar to the process with the same name used by computer programers, encoding is the inputting of something.

So you’ve encoded your starts out in your short term memory or your “working memory.” Our professor likes to compare it to an ineffectual mental chalkboard. One commonly held theory states that working memory can hold 7 – 8 things for 20-30 seconds. That time can also be reset by re-stating the information. (such as repeating a phone number to yourself) Memory experts say that the way you store your memories is crucial to how you retrieve them. In order to become a permanent part of your consciousness a thought has to travel from short term memory to long term memory, the way to do that is by repeatedly tracing the thought path it takes to think that thought. Hence the term, practice makes permanent


When we forget something what is actually happening is a breakdown in the three step process discussed above. Sometimes this can be because we did not encode the memory effectively in the first place, maybe we were not paying attention. For instance when you cannot find your keys, maybe when you put them down you were thinking about what to cook for dinner and did not encode sitting them on the refrigerator, out of reach of little hands, now when you go to retrieve the information of where they are it is not there. You have FORGOTTEN where your keys are. Bummer.


Mohs, Richard C..  “How Human Memory Works”  08 May 2007. <;  10 August 2014.

It seems the instructor or our M.O.O.C and the author or the above referenced article differ on the amount of information short term memory holds. Hmm. The tables below are some facts I found interesting about the two types of memory discussed in our lecture on memory.

Working Memory

  • what your currently dealing with
  • holds only 4 bits of information
  • must keep repeating information to hold off natural dissipating processes
  • can be manipulated to hold more
  • inefficient blackboard
  • Used when encountering something new

Long Term Memory

  • Like a large storage warehouse
  • Must be revisited multiple times so it can be found later
  • Has unlimited storage capabilities so information can become lost under other information
  • Fundamental concepts and techniques
  • Spaced Repetition is a method of moving information from the short-term memory to the long-term, it entails repeating the information your trying to learn on a spaced out schedule so as to not attempt to “learn” it in one sitting.
  • Over time metabolic processes cause information that is not properly stored to vanish.
  • Proper storage takes time and practice.

Hope this overview does not make any memory experts or scientist..or even teachers for the matter..cringe. But both babies are napping..AT THE SAME TIME!!! yea..that never I have a few other things to do..this post on memory was one of them. Hope you found it enjoyable..or at least not a total waste of time.  😉


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