Memory: Encoding, Storage, and Retrieval

You can pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a memory seminar if you want one, but you don’t need one because I’m going to give you one right here, right now, you already payed for it and it will benefit you for the rest of your life if you understand it. Memory is something we all wish we had more of. Some people know of a few very exceptional individuals that have eidetic memories, which would be called photographic memories, but that’s very rare and not always under control, they don’t always photographically remember everything they want to remember. We all have issues with memory. Most people have more issues with memory than they are aware of. Some people think their memories are far better than they actually are. We would see with eyewitness testimonies, we can actually make our memories think things we think the memory should think, even when the memory is inaccurate. Other people think their memory is not as good as it ought to be when in fact it’s normal.

My mom called me in her fifties and said ‘I think I’m starting to get dymentia because I don’t know where my keys are.’ I said ‘well gosh, I must be getting dementia too because I don’t remember where mine are either.’ But that’s just normal forgetting, she just became more aware of forgetting as she got older. It was nothing unusual, and here she is in her seventies with no dementia.

So, what you see is that memory is a tricky thing. Memory and pride were fighting and memory said ‘it was like this.’ And pride said, ‘it could not have been like this.’ Memory gives in. You all know how much you are deceiving yourselves, how many of your memories are exaggerations and projections, how many of your memories are patched up and distorted, for its pearls. Gestalt therapy was his thing, and he was actually not talking to a general audience, he was talking to people with advanced degrees in psychology and related fields. So you may not know, but the fact is our memories are exaggerated in some cases. They’re projections of our world views and not necessarily consistent with actual realty in other cases and we patch them up and distort them all the time without realizing that we’re doing it, and I’ll show you why that is and how it works, and the faintest ink is better than the best memory which is why you should take notes on anything you actually care to remember, because the best memory scenario is not as good as having an actual physical record of what transpired.

You can go back and double check, because that’s going to be more accurate. So, moving into it, attention is what we’re talking about. Some of you are paying attention right now, keenly, others, weakly, others, not at all. That’s normal. Attention waxes and wanes for human beings. Probably on average the peak attention span, about fifteen minutes, and then it wanes a little bit, and then it can get so bad that you might even actually look like you’re paying attention because we’ve all trained ourselves to look forward in academic settings and act like we’re paying attention, and you aren’t paying attention at all to what’s being said on stage. You know how you yawn with your jaw locked? And you’re thinking, ‘man, tonight’s going to be cool. That’s going to be fun.’ Or ‘oh my god, what did I do last night? Who can I call that won’t?’ Because you’re not paying attention. Attention is something you can train, that how to study seminar actually focuses a lot on how to train your attention. Late selection is how we attend to things.

Late selection means that I perceive all kinds of things simultaneously, but I don’t pay attention to the vast majority of it. Could you imagine what your life would be like if you actually payed attention to every number and every chair, and every arm on every chair, and every thermos, and every shoe, and every person, and every hat, and every cup, and every backpack, and every notebook? You couldn’t live like that, right? So you scan across visually, and what interests you is what grabs your attention and holds it there.

It’s what we call late selection, as you’re attending to the environment in a very, very superficial way, whatever it is that grasps your attention is what you’re going to hold onto, and perceive longer. But, perception has got to be assumed. If you didn’t perceive it, there’s no way you could remember it. Had to be perceived. Keeping in mind that all we have are models of reality that are transduced from energy from outside the body to energy inside the mind, the brain cells firing, we read that as our gauge of what’s happening outside the body, as reality certainly seems that real to us. It is that real in most cases. But you have to have perceived it. It had to have been transduced from physical energy, external to the body, to internal energy in the mind to be perceived. We got three key processes to pay attention to here. First being coding. Now we’re going to use a lot of metaphor here because we just don’t really understand all the processes involved.

We understand the processes that occur, but not necessarily why they occur or exactly how they accomplish or function. So, looking at some metaphors and some analogy, we look at encoding. If you think about encoding, forming the information into a memory code. What kind of code are you talking about? Really, it’s a neural code. Every time you perceive something, neurons fire. Every time you think something, neurons fire. Every time you say or do something neurons are firing. So, remembering something that happened would be neurons firing that fired when it happened the first time so that you would have a reproduction of the original event. Well it can’t be reduced and reproduced if it isn’t coded into your memory. So, I’ve got to get information in, and code it in a biological, neurological way and then I have to store it. Storage then, is just maintaining this encoded information. We’ll see that decay happens. You don’t remember everything you did all the time.

You might remember what you had for breakfast this morning. If I asked you now, ‘What did you have for breakfast this morning?’ You’d go, ‘oh, I didn’t eat breakfast this morning.’ Or I had this, or I had that. But if I ask you in ten years what’d you have for breakfast on St. Patrick’s Day in 2014, you’d probably be hard pressed to remember it unless something dramatic happened in which case it may be stored longer than you care for it to be stored. And then you’ve got to get it back out. Well, that’s what happens when people are experiencing test anxiety right? They’ve studied the material, they’ve encoded it, they’ve stored it, and then they get to the test and they blank, and they can’t retrieve it. Which is why we have the test anxiety seminar, right? Calming yourself down allows you to access that encoded information that’s been stored. You know it’s there. If there was no pressure you’d probably have no problem retrieving it, but the pressure can become problematic if it interferes with retrieval. So we’re talking about encoding information, storing information, and retrieving information.

Those being our three key processes in memory. So there are a lot of different information processing theories. The idea that they flow through graduated levels of storage is one we’ll come back to so that we’ll see that information can be stored at various amounts, in various times depending on how well or how deeply it was processed from shallow processing to deep processing..

As found on Youtube