Some people are gifted with enhance memory that allows them to quickly absorb and accurately retain a large amount of information with little or no effort. A small percentage of people have a eidetic or photographic memory that allows them to record and recall a large amount of images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme precision. A very, very small percentage of people can actually remember every minute of their entire lives. Surprisingly, they're not overwhelmed with the large amount of information. A few of them said they actually enjoy organizing information into the equivalent of folders and file cabinets in their mind.
Most people do not have enhance memory or photographic memory capabilities. We cannot remember every minute of every day with accuracy. We can probably remember some specific events, facts, or situations that involved our emotions, but most things tend to become a blur in memory that seems to fade with time.
Despite our best efforts to remember, we tend to forget information quickly or over time. It's frustrating to learn something if you're unable to recall and apply the information when you need it. Forgetting may have to do with a lack of concentration, but most likely it has to do with our inability to create or maintain strong connections in the brain.
The brain is made of billions of nerve cells called neurons that turned on and off like a relay switch. The brain encodes and stores a memory by changing the physical structure of connections between neurons called synapses. When we learn something new, neurons sprout new synapses and strengthen existing connections. Synaptic plasticity is the brain ability to strengthen, weaken, destroy, and create neural synapses. Synaptic plasticity is the basis for learning. Thoughts that are favored, or reactions from strong emotions, will be reinforced and those that are deemed unfavorable will be weakened.
Connections in the brain tend to decay when they are not used for a period of time. For example, you might memorize information to pass a test, but forget most of it afterwards. You no longer have a need to recall the information, so the connections in the brain start to diminish and decay after a while.
Short-term memory and long-term memory
Short-term memory, is also called working memory or temporary memory, stores information for immediate use or manipulation. Information in short-term memory usually fades within 30 seconds if we do nothing with them.
Long-term memory is our "almost" permanent storage, and the capacity, as far as we know, is unlimited. As long as the brain is in working order, we will most likely remember most of the information that is stored in long-term memory.
Most people can learn using all their senses, but everyone has a preferred way, or learning style, in which they absorb, process, and retain information or new skills. The most common learning style types are visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic. Visual learners tend to grasp things by reading or watching something such as a video. Auditory learners tend to learn best by listening. Tactile/Kinesthetic learners tend to learn best by using a hands-on approach and activities.
You may have noticed that you prefer to learn by listening to someone talk about a subject, prefer to read about the concept, or prefer to see a demonstration of the concept. It's good to know and recognize your learning habits and preferred learning style so you can take advantage of your natural skills to learn and retain more information.
Try learning new information by utilizing all three learning style methods at a time. With practice, you will develop multiple ways to process and retain information easily. Start by translating information into a visual, auditory, or tactile/kinesthetic learning style. Mix and match learning style methods to improve your ability to learn.
The capacity in short-term memory is limited to around 6 to 9 items at one time, but this limit can be expanded through a process called chunking. Memory chunking is a strategy to group, organize, or classify a large amount of information into one manageable, meaningful unit/packet known as a chunk. Chunking is the ability to memorize and view multiple thoughts or facts as a single unit or packet in memory. It is easier to encode a single packet into one chunk of memory, then to encode separate objects. It is a more effective and efficient use of short-term functions. It is also possible to create a hierarchy chunking and labeling structure that can provide easy accessibility to the chunks.
Memory chunking is a great way to remember information such as phone numbers, addresses, important dates, and other facts.
Remembering a phone number sequence, 8-8-8-6-5-4-1-1-1-2, one digital time is difficult. Grouping or stringing the numbers together as 888-654-1112, or 888-6541112, makes it easier to remember in the future. We can try to memorize and recall a string of numbers such as 12101996, or group the numbers as 1210-1996, or as a month, date, year, 12, 10, 1996.
7+2=9 See the number seven, plus sign, number two, equal sign, and number nine, or see (7+2=9) as one unit group.
We use chunking when we combine alphabets letters together to make a word. It's difficult to memorize the individual letters f/ a/ n/ t/ a/ s/ t/ i/ c, but grouping them together, we see the word "fantastic". We now recognize the word and it has meaning.
We can also use chunking to read an entire phrase or sentence with one glance, rather than separate words.
Read the words - The / boy / ran / home / to / eat / lunch.
Now read the words all at once, with one glance - The boy ran home to eat lunch.
View it and understand it as one thought, rather than separate words put together into one sentence.
You may have to get used to scanning or seeing the entire sentence with one glance. Using chunking to read a phrase at a time helps to improve reading and comprehension skills.
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