#mayArtOfMemory – Week 1

What is Memory?

In few words: Memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved1.

Memory stages


Brain Machine by aytuguluturk.

Memory, as we know it, is made out of three stages: Sensory Memory, Working/Short-Term Memory, and Long-Term Memory.

1st. Sensory Memory (SM) stores any stimuli perceived by any of our five senses long enough to be transferred to Working/Short-Term Memory.

  • Attention plays an important role here because unconsciously we focus only on a small percentage of all the input provided by our senses at any moment. Without that skill, our brains would be overloaded with millions of input streams from our senses leaving a small room for thinking to happen.

2nd. Any stimuli that is worth retaining, will be transferred to Working/Short-Term Memory (W/STM). Let’s say you start a conversation with another person; in order to keep up with the topic discussed, the words spoken by your counterpart – sound stimuli –  are transferred to your W/STM, thus it allows you to follow along with the topic.

3rd. Any stimuli from the W/STM that is relevant will be moved to the Long-Term Memory (LTM).

  • Caveat: our brains don’t know what is considered exactly “relevant”. They will store in LTM anything with a strong emotional charge. Therefore, not being mindful of this detail can lead to remembering even trivial stuff like the day you got embarrassed in class in 3rd grade. Maybe that is the source of trauma!

Retrieving memories

There are three ways to access memory: Recall, Relearning, and Recognition.

Based on the ways just mentioned above, it’s understandable that multiple choice, fill in the blanks, and historic dates are the bread and butter of school tests to assess memory about topics. If that’s the case, then there’s a tiny problem with them: it seems that educational systems are not testing how much we know about a topic or its practicality, but instead how good our memory is about it. #academicFail :/

Want to learn more about remembering and forgetting memories? Check out these Crash Course videos 🙂

Memory Competitions


World Memory Championships Logo

As you read it: Memory COMPETITIONS! National teams, months of practice prior to the competition, hours of mental workout each day and all sort of memory techniques and disciplines like “Names and Faces”, “Binary Digits” and “Cards”, just to name a few, are part of these contests.

When you feel curious, remember to check out the World Memory Championships Official Website. #punIntended.


People that train their memories are called “mnemonists”. Some of them even reach the title of “Grand Masters of Memory”. This is a title given by the World Memory Sports Council2 once they proved they achieve specific memory feats in their careers.

During Week 1, I ran into two of them that are worth following on social media:

Training our memory sounds fun but is useless if it’s not applied to daily life scenarios. Therefore, I chose one of them for this week.

How to remember names?

Yes, admit it. You and I have been in the awkward situation where after a couple of seconds a person introduced himself, we completely forgot the person’s name. Or even worse, when you meet randomly with someone that knows your name and you don’t! #epicMemoryFail.

Wouldn’t it be a nicer situation if we could remember the person’s name instantly? Check out this short video on a technique to make that happen.

Well, this is what I’ve been practicing lately at social events over Week 1 and even though it is mentally taxing, the effort is well paid off. Especially when you reencounter people and call them by their names. The smiles on their face are priceless ;).

Needless to say that without memory as one of our cognitive strengths, we’re not very different from the rest of other animals. Seriously, without memory and proper usage of it, we humans would still be one of the underdogs of the food chain on the planet, as Yuval Noah Harari proposes in Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind. Our capacity to store and retrieve key information is what allowed our early Homo Sapiens cousins to get together in tribes, pass on knowledge and stories from generation to generation and work as a huge collective mind until we ruled the place. #memoryRocks

That’s it for #mayArtOfMemory – Week 1.

What do you think about the content? Please let me know if this is useful.

REMEMBER: Keep on learning.

2 thoughts on “#mayArtOfMemory – Week 1

  1. Hi JJ! Very interesting topic, it triggered a couple of thoughts and many rhetoric questions:
    1.Reading “because unconsciously we focus only on a small percentage of all the input provided by our senses…Without that skill, our brains would be overloaded with millions of input streams” comes to mind, what’s the % each person has, if it a condition were are born with or we can develop. And if a high percentage of this condition define mental health illnesses, but if we can develop this conditions, would that people heal?
    2. I am also amused by the close relationship between learning and psychology you make reference on how the long term memory gets created.
    3. 100% agree on here #academicFail – maybe we are not getting emotional enough in the classroom to be able to turn that into LTM? But with many types of learners in a class how teachers would become emotional or transmit the emotion for a subject to all the learners?

    Waiting for the next post!

    1. Thank you for replying, Laura! Before replying, let me clarify that I’m not an expert nor play one online. Therefore, I may not have the right answer, but I’ll make my best pointing into the right direction:
      1. The % that you mention is something that seems to be imprinted in our DNA. Nevertheless, nowadays we can see how mental disorders like ADHD – reduction in the percentage because the person cannot get focused – or on the contrary, hyper-attention – being able to focus for extended periods of time on a single task – demonstrate that we can change our innate disposition for worst or good.
      2. 🙂
      3. IMHO, even though teachers could find ways to transmit emotions massively, seems that technology is democratizing and personalizing education, thus transforming rapidly what we used to know as “classic schooling” into a “customized schooling” system.

      I hope these few lines shed some light 🙂

Leave a Reply