What is Memory?
In few words: Memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored, and retrieved1.
Now, let’s dig into how the memory works in order to understand it and plan the strategy to optimize it. #scientificThinking
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!
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 🙂
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.