CogniFit's Science blog: How Does Human Memory Work?

How Does Human Memory Work?

Memory is a concept that refers to the process of remembering. Human memory is a complex brain process that is essential to who and what we are.
Memory is how we understand our current actions and experiences. Memory is the key aspect of our personal identity.

Memory is our source of knowledge. There can be close interactions between our memories, perceptions and imagination. Remembering is often full of emotion, including grief and love. It is a reasoning tool and used in decision-making.
There are several types of memory, among them long-term memory, sensory memory, and short-term or working memory.

Long-term memory stores information over a life time. The information you get from working memory is transferred to the long-term memory after a few seconds. You don’t lose much of this memory as you do with working memory. Long-term memory is composed of episodic memory and semantic memory.

Episodic recalls memories of experiences and events that took place at any time of your life. Semantic memory is a learned record of concepts, skills and facts that we have acquired over time. Semantic memory comes from our own episodic memory, where we have learned new facts or concepts from that experience. Storage, deletion and retrieval are the three main activities related to long term memory.

Sensory memory is received through your senses, hearing, taste, sight, touch, and smell. The information from sensory memory is passed to short-term memory by attention.

Short-term memory is held temporarily. When you read a paragraph, you must remember the beginning of the paragraph, in order to understand the whole paragraph. Short term memory goes away quickly and is limited in capacity. Interference disturbs short-term memory retention. That is why you should complete your short-term memory tasks as quickly as possible. Practice and repetition is how short-term memory is stored into long-term memory.

Deletion of memory is caused by interference and decay. Emotions also affect long-term memory. Do we actually forget things or has it just become more difficult to access our memory? Forgetting something may be caused by not knowing how to retrieve it.

Information retrieval comes in two forms: recognition and recall. To recall something, you must reproduce the information from memory. Recognition means the information has been seen before.

Scientists still don’t understand exactly how you remember things or what occurs during recall. They do not know precisely how the brain can organize memories or where those memories are acquired and stored even if many theories about the subject exist. They do have enough information to understand that the process of memory begins with encoding, and then proceeds to storage and, finally, retrieval.