How human memory works

The human memory is a complex system that involves many different processes that provide us with the tools we need for memory recall. There are three stages in the formation and maintenance of human memory:

Acquisition: This is the process in which your brain acquires new information. A key component of this phase is concentration. Unless you focus attention on the information, it will be lost at this stage.

Consolidation: In this phase the hippocampus will send a message to store the information in long-term memory. This only happens if you have concentrated on the information during the acquisition stage. It is easier if information is something you are already familiar with or if it stimulates an emotional response.

Retrieval: This final stage involves memory recall. The more you use the information, the easier it is for your brain to retrieve it. Short and long-term memories play important roles in the human memory process. Our short-term memory can typically retain information for a few minutes; it is intended to be fragile so that our minds do not become overloaded with too much miscellaneous information. It is also intended to retain approximately seven items of information at a time. If you do not focus or concentrate on the information, it will be lost in the transition to long-term memory.

Give your working memory brain exercises to help improve how you use it. You can make a list, memorize it and quiz yourself later to see how well your memory recall is working. You can also read something that you want to learn, analyze it and then try to explain it to someone else. Remember, working memory uses the knowledge that you are currently conscious of.

Long-term memories are memories that you retain because you have made an effort to do so. This can be a conscious or unconscious effort. This information is stored because it is information that you need, the information stimulated an emotional response or because it has meaning to you. Some types of long-term human memories are episodic memory, semantic memory and procedural memory. Episodic memory includes memories that involve your personal experiences. Semantic memory includes factual information and procedural memory includes skills you use on a regular basis that don’t need a conscious effort to remember.

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