Barbara Kapica
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic:

Memory is necessary for everything we do. Life without it would be meaningless. People would have no identity, no background or life history, no knowledge and no recognition. Memory is the process of encoding, storing and retrieving information. The brain forms models of chemical and electrical impulses. Brain creates wide communications; more than a hundred billion connections.

Memory is a very complicated issue. It includes sensory memory, short-term memory, long-term memory, procedural memory, declarative memory, semantic memory and episodic memory. Each makes up a different part of our memory. For example, sensory memory holds an exact copy of what is seen or heard for just a fraction of a second, then it fades away. Short-term memory holds small amounts of information for relatively brief periods; only for few seconds. Long-term memory is a system used for relatively permanent storage of meaningful information. Procedural memory includes basic conditioned responses and learned actions. Declarative memory stores specific factual information such as: names, faces, and words. Semantic memory serves as a mental dictionary or encyclopedia of basic knowledge. Episodic memory is an "autobiographical" record of personal experiences.

Short-term memory acts as a temporary storehouse for small amounts of information. Usually it holds information up to 30 seconds and then the information is either forgotten or transferred to long-term memory. Short-term capacity is limited. It will hold about seven items at one time. Some people can hold nine, some can hold five, but the average is about seven. Since short-term memory is limited, things can get pushed out. For example, if a student is attending a class and the professor is telling a short story to the student, and then in turn asks him or her to repeat the story, the student will not be able to retell the whole story, but he will recall a few sentences. We lose a lot of the information that is in our short-term memory because we have no need to remember it, we do not want to remember it, or it gets displaced by new information. So, short-term memory allows us to hold on to things for as long as we think about them, or for as long as we are paying attention to them.

Information that is important or meaningful is transferred to long-term memory. Long-term memory acts as a lasting storehouse for meaningful information. Long term memory contains everything you know about the world. It is thought to be unlimited and persist for a lifetime. If a person remembers a specific event that happened when he was a small child, for example learning to ride a bicycle, we consider this as part of long-term memory. According to John Anderson (1983), long- term memory is organized as a network of linked ideas. For example, when ideas are "farther" apart, it takes a longer chain of associations to connect them. The more items are separated the longer it takes to retrieve them. On the other hand, if there are more paths to the information, it makes it easier to retrieve the memory. If we connect the new information with the information that we already know, for example by mental picture or acronyms then, the information that we already know helps us to recognize the new information.

Sensory memory is the memory system that includes very brief memories. For instance, when you look at something for example a book, the mental image of the book will persist for about one-half second. Sensory memory holds information for only an instant, just to register an impression of the senses; smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing.

Procedural memory is memory for motor skills and behavioral habits. One of the skills that uses this type of memory is typing. Once you learned it you will not find any difficulty doing it.

Declarative memory is expressed as a word or symbol. For example, knowing that Betty Smith wrote "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn", is a declarative memory. Many psychologists believe that this type of memory can be divided into semantic and episodic memories. Semantic memory is conscious recall of facts, information and ideas. It serves as an encyclopedia of basic knowledge. Semantic memory includes the names of objects, days of weeks, the seasons, words and language that we know. Episodic memory stores life events. It has connections to times and places. It is from this memory that we can reconstruct the actual events that took place at a given point of our lives. An example of episodic memory is if you remember your first day of college or you remember what you had for breakfast two days ago.

Not all people have a good memory, but there are certain steps people can take to improve their memory; for example by organization, distributed practice, feedback and recitation. Our memory can be considered like a file cabinet. When all of the files are correctly placed it is then easier to find what you need. Therefore, when a person organizes the received information properly, it will be easier for him or her to retrieve it when needed. Organization is the major thing to remembering. Another method that can help you to improve your memory is distributed practice. When you practice looking for things in your memory, it will help you to find them when you need them, like on a test. Furthermore, recitation forces you to practice retrieving information. For example when you are reading a book, you should stop and try to remember what have you just read, or explain it in your own words.

Memory is a very important and complex issue. People who have a weak memory should do everything in their power to improve it. Those whose memory is good and strong should never take it for granted because you never know when you might lose it. Without memory life would be totally different and much stranger. We would not recognize our friends and family. Every day we would have to learn everything all over again.


Coon, Dennis, Essentials of Psychology Exploration and Application, 8th Edition, Belmont CA: Wadsworth, pages 302-304, 308-310.

Memory, Internet.

Memory, Internet.