Last week, we were learning about learning. Now, we need to remember facts and theories on memory. Memory is any system, biological, mechanical or electronic, that encodes, stores and retrieves information. The human brain is currently ranked as having the largest memory capacity.

Although believed by many to be unlimited in storage capacity, the human brain has a finite number of neurons and a finite number of connections. For that reason, I think that human memory has a finite, though admittedly very large, “disk space.” I have been able to find some more evidence to back this view. The so-called seven “sins” of memory – transience, misattribution, blocking, bias, distortion, persistence and absent-mindedness – serve as rather strong support. Computers are able competitors to the human brain. Computer memory, just like its processing system, rarely errs; it produces the information previously stored with mathematical exactitude. On the other hand, human memory has an entire list of drawbacks as aforementioned. From an evolutionary point of view, those “sins” have adaptive values to our predecessors; they prevent them from being overwhelmed by a vast amount of data to be stored and retrieved. In addition, our sensory systems use a strategy known as selective attention when picking up data from our surroundings. That means only the details you pay attention to will be transferred into working memory, which consists of a central executive, a sketchpad and a phonological loop. Then, only some of the information in working memory will be stored in long-term memory. In all, only a small amount of stimuli detected is transferred into working memory and even a smaller amount is stored in long-term memory. Last but not least, my textbook mentions that long-term potentiation suggests that millions of neurons are involved in the storage of a single memory. Again, we have a finite number of neurons and neural connections. How can human memory capacity be unlimited when so much activity is associated with the processing of a single piece of information?

I have tested my memory of the vocabulary terms and concepts I need to remember in the above paragraph. I think my performance was satisfactory. Memory can be a very strange thing. I had a little difficulty remembering all seven “sins” of memory, on which Mr. Marshall lectured very recently. In contrast, I can solve review mathematical problems involving concepts presented last year (chapters 1 and 2 of AP Calculus) without struggling and often without having to confirm with a calculator. Furthermore, I am admittedly an absent-minded individual. I often forget where I put things. I try to resolve this issue by very regularly put them in their single designated place. For example, I always put my keys on my table as soon as I get home. That way, the possibility of leaving them in one of my pockets or elsewhere is eliminated. From that point onwards, I almost never forget my keys again.

I think Mr. Marshall’s method of maintenance rehearsal is very helpful. Besides trying to recall what a technical term means, I also try to do it in my own words. This means I also benefit from elaborative rehearsal. When I studied Mandarin Chinese, a lot of times I had to recall what a character looks like then write it on paper. In order to “help” us remember, our teacher made us copy those characters again and again. This was supposedly maintenance rehearsal. However, in practice, it was not authentically so. I often fell asleep writing those characters. My hand kept copying them but my mind was somewhere else. As a result, I had a hard time with the subject. Mr. Marshall’s method is more helpful because we had to think whenever we verbally recall a word or phrase.

Another strategy I use when learning is distributed learning plus sufficient sleep. Distributed learning prevents one from being overwhelmed by the material to be remembered. Sufficient sleep offers much needed rest for optimal functioning. I find it enjoyable as well. On weekdays, I usually sleep for 8 to 9 hours; on weekends, 10 or 11 hours is the normal number. I am certain that I usually dream about things covered in class even though I seldom remember what were in those dreams. For this reason, I believe that there is probably a connection between dreaming and memory.

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One response »

  1. Mr. M. says:

    It is heartening to see that you are able to use the insights provided by the material so well. In part this explains your mark: you put effort into what you do. You use your attention wisely and efficiently.

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