Psychology Of The Human Memory

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The brain is one of the most vital parts of the human body, one of the most integral aspects of the brain is its ability to store and retrieve memories. There are 6 distinctive variations of memory and how our brains store and retrieve these memories. The first variation is Episodic memory which is an ability to recall events in the order in which they happened from a few days ago. The second variation is Semantic memory is permanent information such as words in a language and other facts about the world. The third variation is Short-term which is the ability to hold and store some information just given for a short amount of time to complete a task. The fourth is Collective memory which refers to the memory a group share together whether that be true or not true due to false memory. The fifth type of memory is referred to as Autobiographical memory which is a form of episodic memory for more recent events. The final type of memory is a term originally coined by Brown and Kulik (1977) which is known as flashbulb memory which is used to describe vivid memories of important news, the importance the term is that the mind captures a moment and like a flash photograph the memory is very distinct and the emotion remains (McDermott, K.B. & Roediger, H.L. (2020).

The three stages for the learning and memory process go as followed encoding, storage, and retrieval. Encoding is the start of the initial learning of information which leads to the second step which is storage, storage is the process of maintaining the information over time, and the final step is the retrieval of the memory which is the ability to access the information when you need it. To successfully retrieve a memory from your brain requires all three of these steps to take place. During this process two errors could occur, forgetting you have seen the person you met, and you cannot recall his or her name. The second type of error is misremembering their face or their name. (Melton, 1963).

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The stage of Encoding memory is the process of the initial experience of seeing and learning new information. The biggest aspect of encoding is that the brain's selection of encoding memories is very selective. The second aspect of encoding is that it is very prolific in that our brains are always encoding new information, but when something we perceive as strange our brains are immediately drawn to it and may encode it as a memory, this makes a memory of encoding as distinctive which is a memory that is encoding due to its abnormality (Hunt,2003).

The second stage of processing a memory which is referred to as storage is never complete memories. The process of storing a memory involves the brain biochemically altering itself and its neural tissue to keep this memory through the process known as memory traces or engrams. These memory traces are not exact replays of the event that happened which is due to the memory traces not being perfect packets of information. The way we remember things is our brain reconstructs the event that happened with the aid of the memory traces, but also with our current belief of how the memory happened. Our brains do this through scenarios that involve a person that we have certain feelings about can alter or influence your memory of that event. During the process of storage and retrieval, the mind has a way of misremembering here as well, during this process called retroactive interference which is a process between storage and retrieval of the memory, the brain consolidates information between the time it took place and the current time the brain tries to remember a specific event, while the opposite effect is called proactive interference in which memories begin to interfere with encoding new memories. The process of retroactive interference is also one of the main causes of forgetting certain things, it can also cause you to experience the misinformation effect, in which case would make you misremember certain aspects of something that just happened due to new information being presented to you. (McGeoch,1932).

The most integral part of memory is retrieval without this function the brain's ability to store memory would be completely useless (Tulving,1991). Psychologists distinguish that there are two different types of memory stored, which are known as available and accessible information. Available information is information that is stored in memory, but precisely how much and what types are stored cannot be known, while accessible information is a memory that is available at any time. The encoding specificity principle (Tulving & Thomson, 1973) is the principle that states when people encode information, they do so in specific ways which dictate whether the memory becomes available or accessible information. The process of remembering a particular event may be difficult because the memory is associated with a sensor such as sound, smell, taste, etc. once that sense is triggered the experience that was had will bring back the memory. To retrieve that certain memory, retrieval cues must be triggered which would be the sense that the memory is encoded with. The downside to the Encoding specificity principle is that if the retrieval cue is overloaded with too many memories, this triggers the cue overload principle which could interfere with our memories (Watkins, 1975; Nairne, 2002).

Misinformation is the biggest downfall to our complex memory. An early study of eyewitness memory showed a slide show of a small red car driving and then hitting a pedestrian (Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978). Some subjects were then asked leading questions about what happened in the slides. For example, subjects were asked, “How fast was the car traveling when it passed the yield sign?” But this question was actually designed to be misleading because the original slide included a stop sign rather than a yield sign. Later, the subjects were shown pairs of slides. One of the pairs was the original slide containing the stop; the other was a replacement slide containing a yield sign. Subjects were asked which of the pair they had previously seen. Subjects who had been asked about the yield sign were likely to pick the slide showing the yield sign, even though they had originally seen the slide with the stop sign. In other words, the misinformation in the leading question led to inaccurate memory. This phenomenon is called the misinformation effect because the misinformation that subjects were shown after the event (here in the form of a misleading question) apparently contaminates subjects’ memories of what they witnessed.

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