Different Types of memory phases Classification How to store

What we generally know as memory (remember something) is usually a general concept, because we often talk about long-term memory . In this article we will present you the different Types of memory.

But other types of memory, such as short-term memory and sensory memory , are not involved in the formation of this longer-lasting memory.

One memory or many types of memory?

If we start to reflect on the capabilities of human beings, it is quite possible that we will conclude that our species is characterized by having a good memory . Every day we learn and memorize things about the environment we live in: who is the new president of a distant country, where we can find a national park whose photos surprised us, what the meaning of a word we didn’t know, etc.

Compared to ours, the memory of the rest of the animals seems smaller. After all, they don’t have a language to memorize complex concepts that refer to elements that they haven’t seen directly. But… are you sure that memory is just that?

After all, many migratory birds memorize the places they need to travel thousands of kilometers each year on their journey from north to south and back. Likewise, salmon memorize the tip of a river where you must spawn and get there, after a lot of effort and after spending a lot of time at seaAren’t these examples examples of different types of memory?

Different types of memory

Different types of memory have their own way of working, but they all cooperate in the memorization process. Memory helps us adapt to the environment and marks us to define who we are; our identity Without it, we would not be able to learn, nor could we make sense of ourselves or ourselves.

But what types of memory are there? What are the stages of memoryThen, we will answer these questions and explain how human memory works and how it allows us to remember events, data, experiences and emotions that we lived in the past.

First memory search

The first investigations into memory have their origins in the studies of Hermann Ebbinghaus , a German psychologist who, at the end of the 19th century, tried to decipher the fundamental laws of memory by studying nonsense syllables (BAT, SIT, HET).

Ebbinghaus’s theory of memory

One of his most outstanding achievements was the demonstration that higher mental functions could be studied in the laboratory in a scientific way. He also concluded that there was a “forgetting curve”, which shows the deterioration of memory over time from the moment of learning. Furthermore, he formulated a theoretical model in which he argued that the mechanism of memory requires repetition , so that the data we remember are associated with one another.

Barlett does the memory study outside the lab

Ebbinghaus used his approach for many decades, in what has been called the “verbal learning tradition”, but in 1932 Sir Frederick Barlett began his studies of the functioning of memory in natural environments (Ebbinghaus conducted his studies of memory in the laboratory), giving birth to a new paradigm. Barlett, instead of using nonsense syllables, used stories and introduced schema theory into his research to explain its influence on memories .

Furthermore, he proposed that humans remember through a general impression with some details , and that from these components they build a version considered closer to the original; Memory works with schematics, not faithful replicas. Although he has been criticized for his lack of methodological and statistical rigor, he stands out for his adherence to the constructivist theory of memory and for his contributions to the cultural formation of memory.

Miller and the current paradigm of how we store memories

Two decades later, in 1956, George Miller showed that people can retain 5 to 7 elements at a time in short-term memory. These elements can be a single letter, a number, a word or an idea. Currently, there is a certain consensus in cognitive psychology that a person interprets information thanks to their previous knowledge and, thus, builds their memories. That is why it is important to emphasize that not all lived events are stored, as there is a selection of relevant facts and what is not interesting is eliminated. In addition, the lived events go through a process of structuring and interpretation and, therefore, what is remembered is a perceived reality.

Specialists in the study of memory agree that in the process of memory not only the cerebral cortex is involved, but other brain areas also participate in this process, for example, the limbic system . The left hemisphere has also been shown to process correct verbal and visual information. The ability to retain words is less than remembering pictures.

Memory phases: encoding, storage and retrieval

As Brenda Milner has demonstrated after her research with patients with memory disorders, it is not found in a specific location in the brain, but consists of several systems that enable what is known as the three phases of memory : encoding , storage , and retrieval .

  • Encoding is the process in which the information to be stored is prepared . In this first stage of memory, the concentration, attention and motivation of the individual are very important.
  • Storage is keeping data in memory for later use .
  • Retrieval allows us to find information when we need it, that is, remember .

Classification and different types of memory

There are different types of memory, and William James (1890) was a pioneer in formulating the distinction between them, because he concluded that there was primary memory and secondary memory .

Later, the so-called theory of Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin appeared, which understands that information passes through different memory stores as it is processed. According to this theory, we have three different types of memory: sensory memory , short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM) . James’ primary and secondary memories would refer to the MCP and MLP, respectively.

sensory memory

Sensory memory , which comes to us through the senses, is a very brief (lasting between 200 and 300 milliseconds) memory and immediately disappears or is transmitted to short-term memory. The mnesic information remains as long as necessary so that it is selectively attended to and identified in order to be able to process it later. Information can be visual (iconic), auditory (echoic), olfactory, etc.

short term memory

When information is selected and attended to in sensory memory, it is stored in short-term memory, also called working memory or working memory . Its capacity is limited (7 + -2 elements) and it performs two functions. On the one hand, it keeps the information in mind, without that information present. On the other hand, it can manipulate this information, allowing intervention in other higher cognitive processes and, therefore, it is not a mere “memory drawer”.

Baddeley and Hitch, in 1974, instead of calling it “short-term memory”, they called it working memory because of its functional importance in cognitive processing, since it allows the performance of cognitive tasks such as reasoning, understanding and troubleshooting . By this concept, the idea that long-term memory depends on short-term memory is abandoned and this type of memory is fragmented into four subcomponents:

  • Phonological loop : is a specialized system that operates with verbal information and allows you to keep internal speech involved in short-term memory, interfering with reading or learning a telephone number.
  • Visuospatial Agenda : It operates in a similar way to the phonological loop, but its function is the active maintenance of information, but in this case with a visuospatial image format. The visuospatial agenda would intervene, for example, or in the learning of an itinerary.
  • Episodic Warehouse : This system integrates information from multiple sources so that a multimodal (visual, spatial and verbal) and temporal representation of the current situation is created.
  • Executive system : Its function is the control and regulation of the entire operating memory system.

long term memory

The long-term memory can store information permanently, and can be classified into implicit and explicit memory.

implicit memory

Implicit memory (also called procedural ) is stored unconsciously. It is involved in learning various skills and is activated automatically. Riding a bicycle or driving a car would not be possible without this kind of memory.

explicit memory

Explicit memory, or declarative memory , is associated with consciousness, or at least conscious awareness. It includes objective knowledge of people, places and things and what that means. Therefore, two types are distinguished: semantic and episodic memory.

  • Semantic memory : refers to the mnesic information that we accumulate throughout our lives. It is knowledge about the outside world (historical, geographical or scientific) the names of people and things, and their meaning, that we learn throughout our lives. This type of memory is necessary for language use. Knowing that Madrid is the capital of Spain is an example of this kind of memory.
  • Episodic memory : it is the autobiographical memory that allows you to remember specific facts or personal experiences, such as the first day of school, the 18th birthday or the first day of university.

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