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Mushe Khoshayev
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic: Discuss the various components of human memory. What is the difference between Short-term memory and Long-term memory? How are memories stored in the brain? What can we do to help improve our memory?

Human memory is very unique. Memory gives us an image of an experience of many different events in our lives. Only for a moment, imagine your life without memory. There would be no image of happiness or upsetting moments in your life. Each moment would be a fresh experience. Every person would be a stranger. Each task--dressing, cooking, writing, and reading--would be a new challenge. In order to understand what memory is and how memory can be defined, we must think about and discuss the various components of human memory.

According to Myers (1999), memory is the persistence of learning over time through the storage and retrieval of information. However, psychologists describe the human memory in some ways like a computer. To recall any event requires that we get information into our brain, which is called encoding. Then we retain or store that information and later get it back out, which is retrieving. Human memory can be compared to a computer. Consider how a computer encodes, stores, and retrieves information. First, it translates input (keystrokes) into an electronic language, much as the brain encodes sensory information into a neural language. The computer permanently stores vast amounts of information on a disk; the same as the human stores information in the brain. From this information storehouse the computer can retrieve a file or document into working memory, which also can receive new information from the keyboard. Part of this working memory is visible on the computer screen (Myers, 1999, p233).

The brain’s ability to memorize can be divided into three pathways: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory is the immediate, initial recording of sensory information in the memory system. Sensory memory can take a lot of information. For example, when any external events happen around us, we turn our attention to them right away. Our sensory memory registers them, but for a very short time. We are conscious of this memory only see, hear and feel for as long as we pay attention to them. Sensory memory does not have the ability to hold a lot of information. Furthermore, sensory memory includes iconic memory and echoic memory. Iconic memory is a photographic or picture-image memory. For instance, the eyes register an exact representation of a scene and we can recall any part of it in amazing detail but only for a few tenths of a second. Echoic memory is a memory for auditory sensory images. However, even partially interpreted, the auditory echo disappears more slowly than the visual echo. The last few words spoken seem to linger three or four seconds. Sometimes, just as you ask, “What did you say?” you can hear in your mind the echo of what was said (Myers,1999, p.242).

Short-term memory is a conscious memory system into which information from sensory memory is encoded. Short-term memory can hold “the Magical Number Seven plus or minus two”(Miller, 1956) items or digits for a very short time. Then information can be encoded and stored into long-term memory or can be forgotten. For example, to find out how quickly a short-term memory will disappear, Lloyd Peterson and Margaret Peterson (1959) asked people to remember three consonants, such as C.H.J. To prevent subjects from rehearsing the letters, the researchers asked them, to start at, say 100, and count aloud backwards by threes. After three seconds people recalled the letters only about half the time; after 12 seconds they seldom recalled them at all. Without active processing, short-term memories have a limited life (Myers, 1999, p.242).

Long-term memory is the relatively permanent and virtually unlimited storehouse of the memory system into which information from short-term memory may pass. However, to pass information to long-term memory, we must rehearse that information or associate it with something we already know. How much information can we have in long-term memory? What is the difference between short-term memory and long-term memory? Research shows that by one careful estimate, “the average adult has about a billion bits information in long-term memory. Allowing for all the brain must do to encode, store, retrieve, and manipulate this information, its storage capacity is probably a thousand to a million times greater” (Myers, 1999, p.243).

Now we can look at the difference between short-term memory and long-term memory. However, we know that short-term memory holds very limited information; the magical number seven plus or minus two items or digits, and it holds this information only as long as thirty seconds. After thirty seconds we must rehearse that information in order not to lose it. On the other hand, if we do not need to encode that information to long-term memory, it just goes away automatically. For long-term memory, it is a very different process. When we encode any information in long-term memory, it lasts for a long time, even if many years pass.

For many years neuroscientists have searched the brain to find out how memories are stored in the brain. They still do not know how we store information in the brain, even though there has been a lot of research done. However, research shows that memories do not reside in single or specific spots. For example, Karl Lashley (1950), trained rats to solve a maze, then cut out pieces of the rats’ cortexes and retested their memory of the maze. Eventually, he hoped to locate where memory of the maze was stored. No matter what part of the cortex he removed, the rats retained at least a partial memory of how to solve the maze (Myers, 1999, p.245).

In some point everybody learns or studies something but we always think about what we can do to improve our memory. The psychologists came up with the S.Q.3R (Survey, Question, Read, Rehearse, and Review) study technique, which can help a lot to improve memory. Survey means that you should look briefly at the text and see how it is organized. Next you should look at the text questions or ask yourself questions. Read means that you should read and try to answer to the questions. Rehearse mean that you should rehearse in your own words what you read and remember. Finally, review means that you should read over any notes you have taken and review the text.

The human brain is a very extraordinary part of the body. The neuroscientists have done a lot of research and study on the human memory system. So far we know and do not know a lot of things about it. For example, we know that memory is a persistence of learning over time. We know that memory includes three pathways: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Further, psychologists have developed the S.Q.3R study technique, which can help to improve memory. We know that memories do not reside in specific spots. However, we still do not understand how memory is stored in the brain and how memory works. At the present time, the neuroscientists have continued to work on those issues in order to solve them. I think in the future, the neuroscientists will discover these very important and interesting issues, which would help us to understand and know more about memory.


Myers, D. G. (1999). Exploring Psychology. 4th-edition. New York: Worth.

Miller, G. A. (1956). Psychology: The science of mental life. New York: Harper & Row.

Peterson, L. R.,& Peterson, M. J. (1959). Short-term retention of individual verbal items. Journal of Experimental Psychology, , 193-198.

Lashley, K. S (1950). In search of the engram. In Symposium of the Society for Experimental Biology (Vol. 4). New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Barbara Kapica
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic: Discuss the various components of human memory. What is the difference between Short-term memory and Long-term memory? How are memories stored in the brain? What can we do to help improve our memory?

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.

Mushe Khoshayev
ESL 91
Fall, 2000

Essay Topic: Do you think that the families of schizophrenics should be responsible for the decision to commit the schizophrenic, or do you believe that a person, even if diagnosed as schizophrenic, should have some say in the decision to commit? In your answer be sure to use concrete examples from the readings and other materials used for the lesson. Provide both psychological and physiological support for your opinion.

Schizophrenia is a well-known mental and emotional disorder, which is characterized by a split from reality. That split from reality shows itself in disorganized thinking, disturbed perceptions, and inappropriate emotions and actions. This condition raises some important issues like: if a person has schizophrenia should the person be hospitalized and who should make that decision? Should the family of a schizophrenic be responsible for the decision to commit the schizophrenic or should a person who is diagnosed as schizophrenic make his own decision about commitment? In order to answer this question, I would like to tell you more about schizophrenia and discuss some issues related to it.

Schizophrenia is not a single disease, but a syndrome, that is a collection of disorders with some common features. These common features include acts in thinking and preoccupation with the self and inner fantasies. The person with a schizophrenic disorder may live in his/ her world - a world inhabited by voices that express or accuse the person of hateful and shameful acts and also by visions of fear and animals, monsters, or scenes. The person may be totally withdrawn from the outside environment and may be preoccupied with an inside fantasy life. The person may regress to such an extent that personal hygiene, activities of daily living, personal contacts, and even the presence of physical illness or pain are not managed.

Schizophrenia is a most common mental health problem. It is estimated that “one percent of the United States population (i.e., 2-3million people) are, or have been affected by the disorder.” (Johnson, 1997, p.566).

Furthermore, we can look at some symptoms of schizophrenia and ask how critical they are. Symptoms are divided into two broad categories, positive and negative symptoms. “The positive symptoms denote an excess or distortion of normal functions such as distorted perception (hallucinations), distorted thinking (delusion), distorted language and communication (disorganized speech), and distorted behavior (bizarre or disorganized behavior). The positive symptoms of schizophrenia are related to chemical imbalance in the brain” (Johnson, 1997, p.575). These imbalances are biological and so can be successfully treated with medications and the person can function as a normal person.

However, negative or defect symptoms are more serious, representing a diminution or loss of normal functions. These include, “restricted emotional expression (affective flattening); restricted fluent and productive thought and speech (alogia), formerly called “poverty of thought”; loss of interest and pleasure (anhedonia); social withdrawal; and restricted initiation of goal - directed behavior (avalition). The negative symptoms of schizophrenia are related to structural changes in the brain.”(Johnson, 1997, p.575). They do not become better with medication but need psychosocial, environmental rehabilitative intervention, such as helping the schizophrenic develop personal, social, and vocational skills.

When the person becomes ill, especially with a disease like schizophrenia, the family plays a very important part. In that point, the patient’s situation often becomes up to the family. There is some issue about how the family would react and act toward the schizophrenic person. Unfortunately, not all families want to take responsibility for the schizophrenics because when one person in the family is affected by that disease, every member of the family is too. Sometimes the family does not want to take responsibility because they are surrounded by their own problems, needs and good lifestyle, and they do not want to change it. In that situation the family might try to find an easy way, which is to put the schizophrenic into the hospital. However, it could be a different situation that leads the family to commit the schizophrenic patient; for example if the family does not have resources to support the person or the family has a critical situation between their members.

The answer to the question “ Should the family of a schizophrenic make a decision to commit?” depends, in my opinion on the facts, symptoms, and situations of the schizophrenic. First, I would look at the symptoms of the schizophrenic and from there give my opinion about who should make a decision. For example, if a schizophrenic person has positive symptoms, then she/he is able to decide not to be in the hospital but to accept alternative treatments, such as outpatient therapy and medication. So, with the treatment, therapy and medication, the schizophrenic would have a normal lifestyle. However, if the person has negative symptoms and is a threat to her/himself or others, then the family should decide what would be best for that person.

Nevertheless, before the family makes any decision, I would look at some facts like whether the family has a good healthy relationship between its members. According to Johnson (1997), the relatives of a person with schizophrenia have a higher incidence of developing schizophrenia. For example, if the family does not provide good care or mistreats a schizophrenic person, then maybe the healthcare professionals would be more appropriate to make that decision to commit or not commit the schizophrenic person.

Schizophrenia is a common and unsolved mental health problem in the world today. It requires a life long treatment. However to solve a problem like schizophrenia, the government, families, and society should have funds and give support to people who suffer schizophrenia. I think the families should make a decision for the schizophrenic, which would help and support the schizophrenic. If the family does not have the budget to support the person, then government and society should have resources to help those families. The people with schizophrenia should get better medical treatment. With government and healthcare professionals’ help and support, the schizophrenic’s family could come to the right decision, which would help a schizophrenic person a lot.


Johnson, B. S. (1997). Psychiatric Mental Health. 4-ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

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