Sharpen your memory-1

-Paulson cmf

Sharpen the memory skills and learning habits (Some theoretical and practical tips for seminary students)

Human Memory

Memory is retention of information over a period of time. Ebbinghaus studied memories by teaching himself lists of nonsense words and then studying his retention of these lists over periods of hours to days. This was one of the earliest studies of memory in psychology.

Myths and facts about memory

Myth: Most people remember fewer than 10% of the names of people that they meet.
Fact: We remember the face, but we have made no real connection between the face and name.

Myth: Most people forget 99% of the phone numbers given to them.
Fact: Most people don’t really choose to remember most phone numbers.

Myth: Memory is supposed to decline rapidly with age.
Fact: Memory declines with age only if it is not used. It can improve throughout your lifetime.

Myth: Most people confess to having a bad memory.
Fact: Most people use the excuse of “only being human,” because they don’t know how to improve their memory

Our memories are far better than we give them credit (positive thoughts on memory)

  • Most people have dreams of family, friends, places, and situations that they may have not experienced in 10 to 30 years. Most of these images are perfectly clear with color and in great detail.
  • Everyone has had the experience of turning a corner and suddenly recalling events from the past. A single smell, touch, or sound might at any time bring back a flood of memory.
  • A Russian journalist named Shereshevsky never took or made notes. He could, however, listen to long speeches and recall line for line, word for word, what he had just heard. Scientists concluded that he was not a freak and did not have anything more than an average intelligence. Shereshevsky did use basic memory principles in his everyday life.
  • Professor Rosenweigs studies in the 1970’s concluded that if our brains were fed 10 new items of information every second for the rest of our life, that we would never half fill our memory potential.
  • While working on a side project, the noted Professor Penfield found that by electrically stimulating certain brain cells, his patients were vividly recalling happenings from their past. The memories included the smells, tastes, colors, noises, and movements associated with the happening.
  • Professor Anokhin proved that memory is formed in small electrical patterns among the interconnecting cells of the brain. We know that the brain contains over a million million (1,000,000,000,000) cells. The possibility of different combinations or connections of memories between these cells is limitless.
  • In near-death type happenings, most people confess to having “my whole life flash before my eyes.” We laugh and tell them they probably just sorted through a few highlights. Studies show that most of these people are serious and that they even recalled events totally forgotten for many years.
  • Studies show that if you are shown 1000 pictures at the rate of one picture per second, that you could, with 99 percent accuracy, pick those pictures out even if someone mixed in 100 new pictures that you had not seen. We all border on the limits of having a photographic memory.
  • Memory techniques are not new and have been used since the time of the ancient Greeks. Recent studies show, however, that if you can master any one technique and score 9 out of 10 on a standard test, that you will proportionally score 900 out of 1000 and so on. Memory techniques work across the board with different cultures studying different type subjects.

Physiology of memory: 

biochemical theories

    • memory storage occurs in biochemical changes at the synapse
    • people with Alzheimer’s show a depletion of acetylcholine and glutamate
  • neural circuit theories
    • there may be specific circuits in the brain for specific memories
    • there may be dendritic growth
  • brain injury:
    • anterograde amnesia (injury prevents new memories from occurring):  HM (Milner et al) memory loss probably due to damage to the hippocampus
    • probably other areas in the limbic system are involved too but these areas are most likely the site where short term memory is consolidated into long term memory
  • so memory is probably stored in the cortex, probably the sensory cortex appropriate for the sensory modality

Phenomenon of Forgetting

  • why do we lose memories?  it can be a problem with encoding, storage, retrieval, or some combination of these
  • Ebbinghaus (1885)
    • memorized nonesense syllables (CVC’s) himself
    • he found that most forgetting occurs very soon after learning
  • however, when meaningful material is used, the forgetting curve is not so precipitous
  • measures used:  retention is the amount of material remembered
    • recall=subjects produce the information on their own (e.g., essay questions)
    • recognition=subjects identify previously learned information (e.g., multiple choice questions)
    • most research shows that recognition is easier than recall
    • relearning=look for savings in the second time of learning

Theories of forgetting

    • ineffective intial encoding (“pseudoforgetting”) usually occurs because of ineffective attention in the acquisition phase
    • decay:  forgetting occurs because memory fades with time (sort of like the effects of friction?)
      • but time is in and of itself is not a variable; it is only a medium in which processes can happen
    • interference: forgetting occurs because of competition from other information
      • retroactive interference=new information interfers with what has already been learned
      • proactive interference=old information interfers with what is being learned
    • retrieval failure=sometimes we can not remember something which at another time we can remember it; perhaps this is because of the context cues or retrieval cues present at the time
    • motivated forgetting:  we may tend to forget things that we do not wish to remember (Freud)

Repressed Memories

  • Freud long ago suggested that memories repressed:   repressed memories are those which for some reason the individual keeps in the unconscious
  • some people have suggested that memories which are “recovered” by therapists are memories which the therapists have created (“false memories”)
    • could be due to problems in source monitoring
    • could be due to failures in memory reconstruction

Why do we forget?

3 possibilities:

  • fading (trace decay) over time
  • interference (overlaying new information over the old)
  • lack of retreival cues.

There are some basic questions to ask about memory:

How is attention and selection done?

how are memories formed?  (encoding)

how are memories retained? (storage)

how are memories recalled?  (retrieval)

Attention and selection:

The first process of memory is attention. There is much more information in your environment than you can process at any one time. Thus, you must make choices (conscious and unconscious) regarding the stimuli to which you will attend. Imagine two students who are driving to Padre Island, TX for spring break. Both have different plans for how they want to spend their vacation: one listening to local bands, the other surfing and swimming. They stop to eat at a sidewalk cafe, where they are approached by a stranger who asks if they know of a surf shop nearby. Assuming they passed one on the way to the cafe, the chances are that the surfer, but not the friend, would have remembered seeing it. Had the stranger asked about music clubs, you might find the opposite scenario. Each one likely attended to what was of interest. We will have more to say about attention later, but we present the idea here to emphasize the roles attention and selection play in our memory.

Encoding

Once something is attended to, it must be encoded to be remembered. Basically, encoding refers to translating incoming information into a mental representation that can be stored in memory. You can encode the same information in a number of different ways. For example, you can encode information according to its sound (acoustic code), what it looks like (visual code), or what it means (semantic code). Suppose, for example, that you are trying to remember these three types of encoding from your notes. You might say each of the terms aloud and encode the sounds of the words (acoustic), you might see the three types of encoding on your page and visualize the way the words look (visual), or you might think about the meanings of each of the terms (semantic).

How does encoding apply to memory? Well, the way you encode information may affect what you remember and how you recall it later. If you encoded the three things visually or acoustically, but not semantically, you may be able to list them during a test, but you may have difficulty recalling what each term means. If you encoded them only semantically, you might be able to explain what they mean but have difficulty remembering the order in which they were listed on the page.

You may be able to remember information best if you use techniques (while retrieving the information) that are related to the way you encoded it. For example, if you encoded something visually, you will be able to recall it most easily by drawing on visual cues. You will find that many of the memory techniques discussed in this section are designed to help you encode the information in different ways.

Storage

Storage is the process of holding information in your memory. A distinction is often made between short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory is just that, brief and transient. Think about looking up a new phone number in the phone book and making a call. You may remember it long enough to make the call, but do not recall it later. This is your short-term memory, which can hold a small amount of information for a short period of time. Once you stop attending to the number, perhaps after you make the call and move on to another task, you are likely to forget it. In order to remember the number for a longer period of time (and after attending to other things), you would need to store it in your long-term memory.

The transfer of information from short- to long-term memory can be achieved in many ways. Simply repeating the information can help if it’s repeated enough times. For example, frequently called phone numbers are remembered because you have used (repeated) the number many times. Although simply repeating, or practicing, something can help move it into long-term memory, another strategy for transferring information is to think about it deeply. That is, elaborate on the information, drawing connections between what you are trying to remember and the other things with which you are already familiar. You might learn that telephone number quicker, for example, if you notice that it includes the dates of your friend’s birthday, the numbers on your license plate, or some other familiar number pattern.

Retrieval

Retrieval is the process of actually remembering something when you want to. If you think about tip-of-the-tongue experiences, when you know a word or name but just can’t seem to recall it, you will understand how retrieval is different from storage. In terms of memory improvement, it can help to understand how the retrieval process relates to encoding and storage. Consider the relationship between retrieval and encoding. If you encoded something visually, but are trying to retrieve it acoustically, you will have difficulty remembering. Like encoding, information can be retrieved through visualizing it, thinking about the meaning, or imagining the sound, etc. The more ways information has been encoded, the more ways there are for retrieving it. Imagine that you are taking a test in which you are given a definition and asked to recall the word it describes. You may recall the page of your notes that the word was on and visualize the word, or you might say the definition to yourself and remember yourself repeating the word. Thus, memory is aided by encoding and retrieving information in multiple ways.

Retrieval relates to storage as well, Obviously the memory has to be stored in order for you to retrieve it, but knowing how it was stored can help. This is where elaboration and processing come in. When attempting to retrieve information, it helps to think about related ideas. For example, you are trying to remember a chemistry formula during an exam. Although you are able to visualize the page of your chemistry notes, you cannot recall the exact formula. You do remember, however, that this same formula was used in the biology class you took last semester. As you think about that class, you are able to recall the formula. This is one reason why intentionally organizing information in your memory when you are learning it helps you recall it later.

Retrieval is the process of actually remembering something when you want to. If you think about tip-of-the-tongue experiences, when you know a word or name but just can’t seem to recall it, you will understand how retrieval is different from storage. In terms of memory improvement, it can help to understand how the retrieval process relates to encoding and storage. Consider the relationship between retrieval and encoding. If you encoded something visually, but are trying to retrieve it acoustically, you will have difficulty remembering. Like encoding, information can be retrieved through visualizing it, thinking about the meaning, or imagining the sound, etc. The more ways information has been encoded, the more ways there are for retrieving it. Imagine that you are taking a test in which you are given a definition and asked to recall the word it describes. You may recall the page of your notes that the word was on and visualize the word, or you might say the definition to yourself and remember yourself repeating the word. Thus, memory is aided by encoding and retrieving information in multiple ways.

Retrieval relates to storage as well, Obviously the memory has to be stored in order for you to retrieve it, but knowing how it was stored can help. This is where elaboration and processing come in. When attempting to retrieve information, it helps to think about related ideas. For example, you are trying to remember a chemistry formula during an exam. Although you are able to visualize the page of your chemistry notes, you cannot recall the exact formula. You do remember, however, that this same formula was used in the biology class you took last semester. As you think about that class, you are able to recall the formula. This is one reason why intentionally organizing information in your memory when you are learning it helps you recall it later.

SUMMARY

Attention —-> Encoding —-> Storage —-> Retrieval

Here are the steps of memory discussed thus far. First, you select the information to which you will attend. You then code the information for storage (where it can be practiced and processed more deeply). Later, when needed, information is retrieved by using a search strategy that parallels how the information was coded and stored.

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