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Memory Processes

Memory Processes

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Description:

This lesson will identify types of memory and describe how each contributes to how memory occurs. Also described is how memory is encoded as it is received, stored, and retrieved

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Tutorial

What's Covered

This lesson is going to cover the process information goes through to become a memory by examining:

  1. Memory
  2. Stages of Memory

1. Memory

One of the most important aspects of human psychology is memory, or the way the mind acquires, encodes, stores, and later uses information. This is a process that's behind all of the higher level mental processes that we use.

ExampleYou can't form opinions about other people if you don't remember who they are or what kind of prior experiences you had with them.

As important as memory is, knowledge about how memory actually works is somewhat limited. It is known that there are certain brain structures involved with forming memories and how memories work:

  • The hippocampus is a structure that's located inside the brain as part of the limbic system, and it helps in the formation and organization of new kinds of memories.
  • When a person learns, new connections are created between neurons. There are new dendrites and axons that branch together and create those kinds of connections.
  • There are certain areas of the cerebral cortex, the wrinkled outer layer, that are responsible for certain types of memory.

There isn't one specific area in the brain that's devoted entirely to memory, but exact studies about memory can be somewhat difficult considering the nature of memory and how it works. The biological study of memory is a bit more limited.


2. Stages of Memory

Despite these challenges, information about the process of memory, and all the different steps that occur to form new kinds of memory are known.In the process of forming new kinds of memories, a person first starts with all of the sensory information that's constantly going all around them like sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. Most of this is not paid attention to because there is to because there is too much going on to take it all in at once.

This sensory information goes into our sensory memory. This is a brief, normally unconscious, copy of the sensory information all around, within the brain. Most of this information is discarded, but some is retained for later use.

Term to Know

  • Sensory Memory
  • Brief, normally unconscious copies of sensory information around us, which can either be discarded or remembered for later use.

There are different kinds of sensory memory. Iconic memory is any kind of visual or site information taken in, and echoic language is the auditory or hearing information that absorbed. Most of this is unconscious and lasts for only a few seconds.

Terms to Know

  • Iconic memory
  • Visual/sight sensory memory.
  • Echoic memory
  • Auditory/hearing sensory memory

Once information passes from our sensory memory, there are three steps that this information would go through to be considered part of our memory:

  • Encoding-this is where the brain processes this sensory information into a form that can be remembered.
  • Storage- this is when the brain holds on, and retains that information for later use. That information is kept in the brain as either short-term or long-term memory.
  • Retrieval- the last stage in which a person retrieves that information from storage for use. So these are the three basic steps in the creation of new kinds of memories.

Terms to Know

  • Encoding
  • The first stage of forming a memory, where the brain processes the sensory information into a form that can be remembered.
  • Storage
  • The second stage, in which the brain holds on to and retains the information for later use.
  • Retrieval
  • The third stage, in which the person remembers the information that was stored, or they retrieve the information from storage.
IN CONTEXT
Imagine  you are walking down the street on your way to work one day. As you are walking through the crowd, you are seeing all sorts of people around you.

Information about their cloths and their faces is being taken in by your sensory memory, but most of it is forgotten because it is not considered important. Only once something grabs your attention will the information make its way to the encoding stage.

Say you suddenly see a clown walking around. This might divert your attention enough to take that information and make it part of your general memory.  You would attach some bit of information to the sensory information like the thought: “It is very strange to see a clown on a Tuesday.”

This is when that information would move to the storage stage. This information would then go to the third stage of the general memory when you retrieve the information to tell your coworker late that day.


Summary

Memory is one of the most important parts of psychology because much of a person’s higher functions are based upon it. Knowledge about how memory works is somewhat limited. While some of the physical structures associated with memory are known, it is difficult to study. There is also an understanding about the stages of memory formation. Information starts by entering our sensory memory. Most of this is unconscious, and much of this information is discarded. If something is important it enters the encoding part of the process. It is then stored in either short-term or long-term memory. The final stage is the retrieval of the information.

 

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia Author Erick Taggart

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Sensory Memory

    Brief, normally unconscious copies of sensory information around us, which can either be discarded or remembered for later use.

  • Iconic memory

    Visual/sight sensory memory.

  • Echoic memory

    Auditory/hearing sensory memory.

  • Encoding

    The first stage of forming a memory, where the brain processes the sensory information into a form that can be remembered.

  • Storage

    The second stage, in which the brain holds on to and retains the information for later use.

  • Retrieval

    The third stage, in which the person remembers the information that was stored, or they retrieve the information from storage.