"Hello class and welcome to the Drury school of Memory! In this course I will be going over points 19 through 26 of our textbook in the chapter called “How People Remember.” Starting us off we have point number 19, “Short Term Memory is Limited” *activate visual 2* oh, I probably shouldn’t say that part out loud. Whoops. Is there a way i can…. Oh well. Uhh where was I. oh yea! Short term memory, aka “working memory,” is active anytime you’re actively trying to remember something (usually by repeating it over and over in your head) until you either put the information down in writing or complete whatever task you needed the memory for. While in this process you’re very vulnerable to distractions that will easily make you forget whatever it was that you were trying to keep in your head. The part of your brain that is responsible for the working memory is called the Prefrontal Cortex, and people with more developed prefrontal cortexes have shown a greater short term memory capacity than those that are less developed (such as children). Now depending on how bored you are right now, you may or may not have forgotten the word I said at the beginning of this video. If you do remember, or just cheat by rewinding it, this first quiz should be a breeze."
People Remember Only 4 Items at Once
People's memory capacity was once thought to be able to keep around 7 things at once in short term memory, but since then It was proven the golden number is actually 4. But fear not! There are methods to remembering more! One of the most common ways to remember more than 5 things (words/numbers) is called "Chunking." By using chunking, you break down the information into sections, so instead of memorizing a string of ten numbers (9435553432), you can memorize 3 sections of 3 and 4 words (943-555-3432). Using this is also a great way to commit things to long term memory.
People Have to Use Information to Make it Stick
The two ways of moving a memory from short term to long term are repetition and association to something already known. Repetition is used extensively in advertising. Think of all the commercials with jingles that have become stuck in your head (1-800-EMPIRE, IT'S MY MONEY AND I NEED IT NOW, and so on). After hearing them over and over for years, they become part of your long term memory, if you wanted it to or not. It's also easier to dedicate something to memory when you can relate it to something that you already know, making it apart of something else. For example, you can probably picture what your room looks like and most of the objects in it. It would be much harder to remember each individual object you own without the context of your room. This is called a Schema, an idea that is comprised of multiple parts. By adding new memories to preexisting ideas, they're easier to recall.
It's Easier to Recognize Information than Recall It
Being able to relate new information with old information is one of the easiest ways to remember something, mostly because it gives the information context. This is something that most people experience when meeting new family members. When someone introduces a new face as "so and so's daughter" you instantly have context as to who this person is, making it much easier to recall when the person is being talked about. Recalling Information out of thin air is much harder than recognizing it.
Memory Takes a Lot of Mental Resources
There are two effects that take place when retaining memories that take place when involved in a relatively long task (movies, conferences, extended conversations etc.). The first being the Recency Effect, which dictates that someone is more likely to remember the ending of a talk/movie than the beginning. Seems fair. Then there's the Suffix Effect, which dictates that if you get distracted during the middle to end of a talk/movie, you're more likely to remember the beginning of it. This chapter also goes into one of the major theories on the purpose of dreams, which is that they are a way of categorizing and consolidating memories from your waking hours. Like dreams, which are hard to remember at times, abstract concepts such dreams are harder to remember than "concrete" words, such as "chair" or "table." Mostly because these are things that we interact with physically on a daily basis. Unlike concepts we don't consciously interact with.
People Reconstruct Memories Each Time They Remember Them
Memories are fickle things, vulnerable to change and influence. Each time you remember something, a pathway in your brain gets activated. This pathway is not constantly on, so memories become fragments of a larger picture instead of whole memories you can play in their entirety in your mind. Over time these memories can be altered depending on things that have happened since, you might remember someone driving a car they didn't, or even someone being somewhere they weren't. It's for this reason the police can't rely on eyewitness testimonies. Someone they remember about an incident might be altered or just completely wrong. Although they have also said that closing your eyes an focusing can result in more clear memories of events.
It's a Good Thing People Forget
It's a fun thought experiment to think of what your life would be like if you could remember ever detail about everything experience you've had. Unfortunately our brains don't have unlimited capacity and such a thing would fry your brain instantly. Instead, our brains are constantly arranging memories, clipping and trimming unneeded and unused information. This results in memories being lost over time. This effect even has its own equation! Hermann Ebbinghaus' Forgetting Curve: R=e^(-t/s).
The Most Vivid Memories are Wrong
Everyone has a couple memories that are ingrained in their minds. A tragic event, a proposal, or a happy time with family. We like to think these memories will never be changed or forgotten, but it turns out they are just as susceptible to the Forgetting Curve. These hugely important memories are usually of something either incredibly good or bad events (like 9/11). Memories like these are called Flashbulb Memories. However, overtime, these memories that seem so vivid in our minds could be partly, if not totally, inaccurate.