In the process of memory, information is taken in from the outside world, encoded, and stored for later use. The measure of effective processing of information and memories involves whether or not they can be retrieved later on. Measuring memory involves how well a person can remember specific information.
EXAMPLEWhen you are taking a test, you want to be able to remember all the facts that you studied. If you don’t, you haven’t processed the memories well.
It's important to note that memory isn't an all-or-nothing process. It is possible to partially remember things.
EXAMPLEDuring the test, you feel like you know an answer, but you can't quite remember it. This is what is called the "tip of the tongue" experience. You know you have a memory, but you're not able to retrieve it.
How do you effectively measure how memory actually works? Well, there are several different ways to do this, including:
The first measure of effective formation of memories is recall. This is the direct retrieval of information; a person is able to reproduce the information that they learned. This is done in an exact, or verbatim, way. If you are able to reproduce the information, then you remembered it correctly.
EXAMPLEAn example of recall would be repeating a song or a poem you learned, word for word.
If a particular memory is only partially remembered, then you can often reconstruct that information based on logic.
EXAMPLESuppose you are thinking back to your fifth birthday, and you don't have a specific memory of your mother being there. However, you know that your mother was an integral part of your life at that time, so you would logically infer that your mother was there, even though you can't explicitly remember seeing her at that birthday.
This explains why, at times, there can be problems with the recall of certain events. Because a person can piece information together, sometimes incorrect assumptions are made about that memory.
When recalling something like a list of information, there's a certain phenomenon, called serial position effect, where a person can usually remember the first and the last items of the list better than the middle items. This occurs because recall can be a very difficult process to accurately and exactly recount everything from memory on your own.
A more sensitive process that makes the retrieval process easier for people is recognition. Recognition is being able to recognize information that was previously stored inside your mind.
EXAMPLEIf a test you are taking has multiple choice options, it might be easier to recognize the correct choice, versus a fill-in-the-blank test, which uses recall.
It's important to note that this can lead to certain ideas of false recognition.
EXAMPLEIn eyewitness accounts of crimes with people in a lineup, you are more likely to think that you recognize a person in the lineup, even if the person you are actually looking for isn’t there.
Relearning is the most sensitive process of remembering. Relearning means that a person tries to learn information that they had previously learned.
EXAMPLEAs a child, you might have learned the names of all 50 states; then, later on in life, you attempt to relearn that information. It will take a shorter amount of time for you to learn that information than somebody who's learning it for the first time.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Erick Taggart.