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Encoding Memories

Joanna Bragg


The human mind processes information in two main ways

The first is called implicit memory, and these do not last in the conscious mind. They really aren’t thought about. They are things that affect you mildly, you do them almost completely automatically, and your brain deems them unnecessarily.

The second track is explicit memories. These are remembered and encoded in our brain for various amounts of time. These are things that we consciously know, and facts our brains think are important.

When first learning how to read or ride a bike, it was explicit and took a lot of concentration. It was difficult to complete the task, and you had to focus on every detail slowly and put them together. However now, or after much practice, skills like these are automatic and implicit. They can happen even without you knowing it, and you probably don’t have to think through them

Explicit memory has to be a fact or experience, and we have to consciously think of and remember it. Unlike an implicit memory, which we might not even be aware of.

There are also two kinds of fleeting sensory memories. These are short-term and can only be recalled for a little while after they occur, or until your brain deems them unnecessary. These are iconic and echoic memories. Iconic covers visual stimuli and echoic deals with auditory memory.

Short-term memory can last about three seconds. The middle stage, between forgetting easily and remembering for some time can hold about seven facts or pieces of information. However, this varies depending on many factors, like age and current physical and mental state.

Chunking and Mnemonic Devices

There are two main methods for enhancing our ability to retain explicit memories and information.

The first is called chunking. This involves breaking information into manageable groups. It increases the mind’s probability of remembering because it allows for it to separate the information into containable and doable sections. This is normally done automatically in our brains, so we don’t always notice how helpful it really is.

The second umbrella category and method is called mnemonic devices.

One of the most famous examples of this is the mind palace, however, it is really just training your brain to store more information. They can be “tricks” that you use to remember more and increase your brain’s function for memory with practice.

The Spacing Effect

one of the most reliable facts and methods that psychology has taught about learning is about spacing out work and memorization for longer retention. It involves not waiting until the last minute to study and has many long-lasting positive outcomes.

Studying over time can help with remembering the facts long after they are needed for that test, and by reviewing them occasionally, you become practically ready for a review or another exam.

An easy way to put the spacing effect into practice is by using the testing effect. This entails trying to recall the picked out bits of information for future reference. Instead of just passing over facts again by rereading the highlighted text, testing yourself helps to specifically make your brain think of the correct and direct information, and it holds you accountable for actually remembering the data. self-assessment is incredibly helpful for lasting memories.

Another very useful method for remembering long amounts of information is to relate it to relevant and already known knowledge of yours. By connecting new information to the previous, you give it context and make it much easier for you to apply and remember.

Adding personalized meaning to an otherwise unmemorable text can also aid with encoding its message. By grouping the obscure message with one that is memorable, you can fairly easily recall both. This grouping can be relating it to something with meaning to you, or sometimes just plain silly, with the goal that it is so ridiculous you will remember it.