Memory is a complex process that we take very much for granted. Imagine what life would be like if you didn’t have a memory. You would have zero recollection of what happened to you ten seconds, minutes or years ago. Without memory, every moment would be a new experience (and not in a good way, but in a bad ‘who am I and what am I doing!?’ way). Every person you met would be a total stranger and each task you attempted, would probably be a struggle to say the least. Even basic tasks such as brushing your teeth or putting your clothes on would be difficult without assistance, as you would have no memory of how to do them. You would not be able to hold a conversation and you would have no friends because you would have no memory of ever having met a person. Without memory you would have no self-concept or personal identity, which develops through the many experiences and memories we have throughout our lives. Without any of these we would have no basis for developing an understanding of who we are. Every time you looked in the mirror you would confront a complete stranger. It is memory that allows us to integrate our thoughts with the past, present and future. Without it we would be nothing, but it also has it’s negatives. The psychological concept of memory involves taking something we have observed – whether it be a smell, a sound, or sight, or a combination of the three – and converting it into a form we can store, retrieve and use. The following post on memory will briefly consider the various ways the human brain can preserve the raw material of memory, and also explore the evolving model of information processing that has guided psychologists’ efforts to understand memory for the last quarter of a century. By the end of this post on Psychology 101, you should be able to:
- Describe memory and outline the model of information processing
- Outline the major types of long term memory
- Understand how information is encoded and organised in long term memory
- Explain why remembering, misremembering and forgetting occur
- Hopefully remember all of this information.