This paper will explore the inner workings of the human mind where memory is concerned. The research was done with several sources from the internet and offline sources. The discovery of the many stages and levels of memory and how they apply to various age groups was evaluated. The many levels of the human memory are not generally agreed upon by all researchers. However, there were some areas that were typically universally agreed upon.
Keywords: short-term memory, working memory, sensory memory, declarative memory, non-declarative memory, associative learning/memory, non-associative learning/memory
Memory and Brain Development as it Relates to Children
There have been numerous amounts of studies done on the brain and memory. They have explored the inner workings of the human brain. They have revealed the many facets to what promotes the human brain to store information and recall it at a later time as needed. Of course adult brains are more developed than those of children. Like adults, children have the capacity for memory. At early ages children begin to recall information that was previously stored, even if it is only what that choose to remember. As time progress’s during late adulthood, those memories may start to fade or be more difficult to recall. Some researchers believe that memory in infants and children start off very basic and simple. The age of adolescence to young adult is the age in which the memory is at its strongest and the most accurate.
Memory is the way information is put into code, recalled, and reserved. It is the information that is stored in the human brain. Memory is everything that we remember. Recalling things that we have previously learned and also recalling previous experiences are all a part of our memories. The brain never stops learning. Therefore, retrieving what we have learned gives us things to remember. This is a continuous cycle that is always in motion even unconsciously. The human brain is able to retain information through a process of re-creating past circumstances in our brain’s neural connection that were present at the time of the original occurrences. Memory plays a vital role in everyday human life. Being able to remember loved one’s names and relationships, being able to effectively use the training that is obtained through training for job performances, remembering to buy your mother, husband, or child a birthday present for their birthday, applying the information learned in classes to successfully complete coursework and exams are all examples of how memory effects human beings from day to day. Memory even affects human motor skills and the ability to communicate. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that, “Memory is both a result of and an influence on perception, attention, and learning. The basic pattern of remembering consists of attention to an event followed by the representation of that event in the brain.” (Memory, 2012). There are three parts to information processing of memory. The first is encoding which is a process of chemical and physical stimuli that reach the human brain from environmental surroundings. In other words, the encoding process is simply a gathering of information. The definition of encoding according to an article entitled Study of Memory in Psychology is as follows,
When information comes into our memory system (from sensory input), it needs to be changed into a form that the system can cope with, so that it can be stored (Think of this as similar to changing your money into a different currency when you travel from one country to another). For example, a word which is seen (on the whiteboard) may be stored if it is changed (encoded) into a sound or a meaning (i.e. semantic processing).” (McLeod, 2007).
Information is encoded visually, acoustically (sound), and semantically (meaning). Next in the memory information processing is storage. This process is where the information is retained on a short-term or long-term basis. The last step in the information processing is retrieval. Retrieval is simply pulling the information out of storage. Typically the stimuli that aid in retrieval are linked to how the information was stored.
There are three types of memory. Levels of memory would better explain the different variations in the types of memory. Those types are sensory memory, working memory, and long-term memory. The sensory memory is very short term. Information is only stored here for less than a few seconds. The information that is processed for this level of memory is often encoded unconsciously. Sort of seeing and not seeing. The brain will store the information that is pertinent for use in the future. The next type of memory is the Short-term memory. Short-term memory is temporary by a matter of minutes. “It can be thought of as the ability to remember and process information at the same time. It holds a small amount of information (typically around 7 items or even less) in mind in an active, readily-available state for a short period of time (typically from 10 to 15 seconds, or sometimes up to a minute).” (Lewis, 2011, p. 3). Unless there are steps of retention taken of short-term memory to convert it to long-term memory this information will be lost forever. The short-term memory is also often called the working memory. Information is stored here temporarily. The term working memory was applied because this level of memory tends to be revolved around what is currently being worked with at the time. This relates to the information that is being worked for retention to be converted to the long-term memory. The intermediate memory is not often mentioned as one of the types of memory. However, it is the actual part of the memory process that transfers information from the short-term memory to the long-term memory. This process requires the use of the Hippocampus. This is within the temporal lobes. The Hippocampus is what allows a person to retain new long-term memories, because it is this structure that transfers the information temporarily stored in the short-term memory to the long-term memory. The intermediate memory is mentioned here because it is like the link from short-term memory to long-term memory.
Long-term memory is a boundless archive of information of all types. If there is a limit for long-term memory, it is unknown at this time. Long-term memory even affects human motor skills and the ability to communicate. There are two main types of long-term memory; declarative and non-declarative. Declarative or explicit memory refers to facts that we can declare verbally and nonverbally and tends to be automatic. The information recalled from this type of memory is things such as events, ideas, and facts. The medial temporal lobe is necessary for declarative memory. This portion of the brain begins development during the prenatal stage until about 12 to 15 months of age when it appears to be adult like. Within the declarative memory there is the Episodic Memory and the Semantic memory. The episodic memory is the process of remembering events that is brought about by talking about the events. This type of memory is also known as autobiographical memory when applied to our individual lives as it makes reference to events of a person’s past. “Episodic memory enables a person to remember to remember personally experienced events as such. That is, it makes it possible for a person to be consciously aware of an earlier experience in a certain situation at a certain time.” (Tulvin, 1993, p. 67). Research has shown that people remember actions with more precision than thoughts, but the autobiographical memory is difficult to study because it is nearly impossible to prove whether the memory is real or imagined. (Memory, 2012). Also within the declarative memory is the Semantic memory. The semantic memory involves the process of learning and retaining knowledge. “Semantic memory enables individuals to represent and mentally operate on situations, objects, and relations in the world that are not present to the senses: The owner of a semantic memory system can think about things that are not here now.” (Tulvin, 1993, p. 67).
Next under the long-term memory is non-declarative memory. Non-declarative memory is also known as implicit memory. This type of memory is an unconscious form of long-term memory that has been learned without any type of extraordinary recollection. The memories that are described here are more inaccessible because they just sort of occur to a person. To further break down non-declarative memory there is associative and non-associative memory. Associative memory is the ability to learn and remember things by association. With associative memory people tend to rehearse or repeat things to commit them to memory. Non-associative memory is a form of learning that consistently familiarizes or stimulates a person’s response to information by repetition or frequent presentation of the information. This type of memory or learning does not require the information to be linked with other things that they can associate.
Age plays a major role in the capabilities of a person’s memory. Infants also have the ability to remember events. In the article called The Development of Infant Memory, the author made the following statement based upon research: “Not only can older children remember an event that occurred before they can talk, but even very young infants can remember an event over the entire infantile-amnesia period if they are periodically reminded.” (Rovee-Collier, 1999). By the time children are about six to 12 years-old, they will likely be using the repetition or rehearsing method to try to remember information. When people reach stages of adolescence and young adulthood their memories are fully developed and capable of recalling accurate information. As people began to embark upon late adulthood, there are possibilities of interference with some of their older memories, especially the ones that they have not had much use for in the later years.
There are some ways in which a person can make their memory more efficient. The first way is to practice and repeat occurrences. Not only does practice make perfect but it also helps one to remember. The second strategy for efficiency is to learn of some of the various memory strategies. Next is to organize the information into categories or groupings that will make the information easier to remember. The last way to a better memory is to understand the information that a person needs to remember. If a person does not understand something, it is easy to forget it.
Memories are the keys to human growth. Everyday life involves learning in some aspect or another, and the human brain is constantly receiving and processing information. Most times people are not aware or conscious of the multitude of processes of the brain. Information is constantly being added to the memory, whether or not a person remembers to remember.