Encode This

Midterms are coming up and my brain feels like it’s about to explode! Let’s take a break from my journey to French fluency and focus on something more recent—my journey to good grades! After all, my blog’s tagline is: “how to learn another language and other tricks your brain can do,” right? Right. So, in honor of the three midterms I must face, today’s topic will be memory!

Why is it so much easier to memorize all the lyrics to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”  as opposed to all the information from four chapters of Cognitive Psychology?

First, we must know how our brain takes in information and stores it. Of course there are several theories and models, but I’d like to focus on Atkinson and Shiffrin’s (1971) Information Processing Model (IP model):

It’s not as confusing as it looks; McClelland and Rumelhart’s Conectionist Model  (1981) is a lot more complicated! Anyway, what the IP basically states is that our memory is processed in a serial manner, a lot like how the neuron processes information.

See the resemblance?

Information from our environment is taken in by our senses and, if we give attention to it, it gets stored in to our short-term memory store. If we rehearse the information enough, such as singing a song over and over again, then it gets stored in our long-term memory store for us to be able to retrieve it whenever we want! So, now that we have a basic understanding of  how our brain stores memory, what is the best way to study? We must get the information into our long term memory by going through the 3 stages of forming memory:

1) ENCODE: assign meaning to the information you want to memorize to help you retrieve it. A good example of this is Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally to remember the order of operations for mathematical problems.

2) STORAGE: the active process of consolidating memories in order to remember them better. When trying to place information into long-term memory store, continually reviewing and rehearsing aids in making memories less vulnerable to be forgotten.

3) RETRIEVAL: The more a memory has been encoded and consolidated, the easier it will be to bring the memory out of long-term into your working memory. This is why poor encoding and rehearsal can make it difficult to recall any information we have tried to memorize.

By following these stages you should be able to remember anything you want! I know it’s worked for me, this blog post is just my way of practicing consolidation and making sure my retrieval process is working–and of course teaching others what I’ve learned! I hope this has helped any of you studying hard for midterms.

Good Luck!


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