Kaitlin Ackerman


Knowing how your brain functions to absorb and retrieve your memories is very important, especially so you can learn how to best be able to retrieve those memories about specific events or information when you are studying. As college students, everyone is studying harder than ever and it is important to know how to best store all the information you are taking in as well how to best retrieve that knowledge and apply it to tests, essays, or real-life situations.


Outline :

I. What is memory ?

- What parts of the brain are used.

- Short Term Memory

- Long Term Memory

II. Studying Techniques

- Chunking

- Maintenance Rehearsal

- Elaborative Rehearsal

- Massed Practice

- Distributed Practice

III. Memory Problems in relation to Studying

- Curve of Forgetting

- Encoding Failure

- Proactive Interference

- Retroactive Interference

- Disuse/Decay

IV. Study Tip

V. Activity

VI. Sources

Stages of Memory.jpg

I. What is Memory?

Memory is an active system that receives information from the senses, puts that information into a usable form, organizes it as it stores it away, and then retrieves the information from storage.

The first step to memory is encoding. Encoding takes sensory information (sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell) and converts it into a form that is usable in the brain's storage system.

The second step is storage. Memories are either stored in one's short-term memory or one's long-term memory.

The final stage regarding memory is retrieval. Retrieval is when you take information in storage and convert it back into a form that can be used.

As stated earlier, memories are stored as either short-term or long-term memories.

If your memories are only stored for brief periods of time before they are forgotten, they are stored in one's short-term memory. Usually these memories are only stored while they are being used. Research shows that short-term memories only last from 12-30 seconds without rehearsal. Short-term memory also has a capacity of 5-9 pieces of information. As new information comes in, the old information fades away. After this brief time, one's memories decay and disappear.

Long-term memory is a system of memory where all the information processed is kept permanently. The capacity of one's long-term memory is limitless. Since it is permanent, memories from one's childhood could linger throughout a person's life. Through rehearsal, memories in one's short-term memory can be converted to their long-term memory.


II. Studying Techniques for Students

One study method frequently used by students is chunking. Chunking is a way to trick one's short-term memory into storing more information. In chunking, small parts of information are combined into meaningful units (chunks) allowing for more information to be help in the short-term memory. Although it is helpful when trying to remember telephone numbers, there are dangers with this studying technique. Just because it allows one to take in more information, it is being stored in the short-term memory, meaning that the information will be easily forgotten in a very short time.

Another technique to store information into the short-term memory is called maintenance rehearsal. With this method, people say what they are trying to remember and then repeat it over and over. With this, a person is continuing to pay attention to the information to be held in their memory. Unfortunately, when the rehearsal of the information stops, the memory is forgotten.

The next studying technique is elaborative rehearsal. This technique transfers information from the short-term to the long-term memory. It does that by making the information more meaningful. The way this is done is by pairing new information with something that is already well known. By doing this, information is more deeply processed which allows for information to be remembered more efficiently. An example is not just memorizing someone's name, but pairing their face with their name.

Perhaps the most common study technique is massed practice, most commonly known as cramming. This is when students attempt to study a body of material all at once. Usually the information is not rehearsed before the exam except for the one time. This method does allow studiers to take on large amounts of information at once, but generally does not prove well once the students receive their test grades.

The best way to study is by involving distributed practice in your study routine. Distributed practice is when one spaces out the material they are trying to remember. There are breaks between studying. This produces far better retrieval of information than cramming does. The downside to this study method is that it takes time and you do not memorize information as fast. Although it require planning, distributed practice will yield students much better results on exams.


III. Memory Problems in relation to Studying

As stated earlier, forgetting is a major issue in terms of memory and studying. As the study techniques showed, there are some ways to prolong how long you remember something, but sometimes those memories are not accessible. As demonstrated by the curve of forgetting, when participants in an experiment are asked to remember a list of words, the graph depicts a distinct pattern showing that people forgot the words dramatically within the first hour, and then it tapered off as days elapsed. This study shows how necessary it is to distribute your study times allowing you to not lose so much information in such a short period of time.

The next issued faced with memory is encoding failure. This is not based primarily on forgetting as much as it is based off of failing to process the information properly into your memory. This occurs because you fail to notice all details of something. An example of this is not remembering something your friend says because you were not paying attention. The information does not get processed through your sensory memory and therefore is not remembered.

Another memory problem is proactive interference and retroactive interference. In proactive interference older information prevents or interferes with the learning and retrieval of newer information. An example of this would be a professor who learned so many names of students in his past years of teaching that he had difficulty remembering the new students' names. Retroactive Interference is when newer information prevents or interferes with the retrieval of older information. An example of this would be switching from a Windows computer to a Mac, getting used to the Mac's software and forgetting how to use a Windows computer.

Disuse and decay are major reasons why people forget information. Decay is defined as the loss of memory due to the passage of time, during which the memory trace is not used. This definition explains how the disuse of information simply fades away. Something to learn from this is that in order to remember things for a long time, you need to keep using that information and keep studying it periodically, otherwise it will face away with time.


IV. Study Tips

Here is a list of some helpful study tips student's should take advantage of as soon as possible:

  • Create a schedule and plan out what you are going to study and for how long.

  • Prioritize what needs to be done today and what can wait until later.

  • Allow yourself multiple days before a test to study. Study a little bit each day and frequently rehearse the information you need to have memorized.

  • Make sure you take breaks while studying. You may have a big test, but taking short breaks every now and then will allow you to study for longer amounts of time and be able to retain more information.

  • Don't cram before a test. Not only will you most likely be sleep deprived for the test, but studies show you will forget the information much quicker.

  • Figure out what works for you- some people may need to practice with notecards. Others may be fine just reviewing their class notes or rereading textbooks. After you figure out what works, stick with it and practice it.

  • Stay healthy. Getting enough sleep is obviously a key component in staying attentive while studying and ensuring encoding failure doesn't occur. With that, being sick could hinder class performance and may also lead to encoding failure.

  • Take detailed notes in class and from your homework to refer back to before tests.

  • Talk things through with your professors and classmates. If you have a question, don't be afraid to ask your professor for help. Getting together with your classmates to study for a test or work through tough concepts may also be very beneficial.

  • Find ways to deal with stress. You are going to have a lot of due dates and assignments you are going to have to balance. Find ways to healthy ways to deal with your stress before it becomes a problem.

  • Procrastination is your biggest enemy. Not stressing over papers the night before allows you to put more time and effort into your assignments, stay stress free and yield better grades.


V. Activity

Go to this link to play a quick memory game. This game gives you an example how rehearsal is such a key part in memory. The more you rehearse, the more information you will be able to take in. This also is a prime example of how your short term memory can only hold so much information (usually 5-9 items). This game also is great example of chunking. As you go through and more and more numbers get added, you will begin to clump each section of numbers together as they are much easier to remember that way.

VI. Sources

Pyschology, An Exploration, Second Edition Saundra K. Ciccarelli, J. Noland White pgs. 162-196