psychology of the human memory

One of the human functions that is intriguing to me and makes people unique from each other is human memory. I am finding that through experiences and what we remember from those experiences, our brain develops and humans form their interpretation of the world and the things around them based on their memory. Our favorite films and the ones we dislike the most are part of the many things that we draw our conclusions from based on memory. Knowing this can help me create more dynamic characters in my scripts because I can better form characters based on their memory.

Whether it be the style the cinematographer might have in his or her shot choice or simply the action that is present on the screen, memory of these aspects allows me to act upon them in my own work and better develop as a person in general. Without memory there would be no knowledge. The first step to memory is the encoding process. This process starts out with our two-track minds by either automatically processing information or effortful processing.

Automatic processing is the unconscious encoding of everyday information, such as space, time, frequency, and well-learned word meanings. Effortful processing is the encoding that requires attention and conscious effort. Waking up to my alarm clock and getting ready for work is an automatic process that I accomplish to some extent everyday. In addition to this automatic process I have other processes being recorded with little or no effort regarding space, time, and frequency.

Where my books are placed in relationship to my backpack, coat, and wallet and phone is encoded into my brain. When I get an email from my Dad asking what time I transferred money into his bank account or when I paid the electric bill for the month, I can retrace my steps throughout the day and remember when these things happened with little to no conscious effort. When I leave my apartment to go to class or work I can also recall how many times I went back and fourth from my apartment throughout the day because of frequency processes.

When I decide to review my psychology notes as I make breakfast I start effortful processing because it is not something that I am doing everyday. The reason that I am studying is because I have been taught by my parents to study, and the reason they taught me is because they were aware of the fact that the solution for boosting my memory of new information, rehearsal (or constant repetition) is the answer. In the past I’ve looked for any and every way to get good grades on my tests.

Even if I knew the correct answers, come test day they would slip my mind and I would be stuck with a blank piece of paper which was bound to come back to me at one point with a disappointing letter grade on it. Now that I understand how memory works, I wish I could go back in time and educate myself as to how I could achieve these good grades. I could have taken the advice from pioneer researcher Hermann Ebbinghaus. His experiment of randomly selecting a sample of syllables concluded that the amount we remember depends on the time we spend learning.

He also said that additional rehearsal (or overlearning) also increases learning. I noticed that when I was to take my test I could only recall what I had in my notes in the first day of class, and what notes were taken the last day before the test. Now that I know more about memory I know exactly what would have been going on here. This is called the serial position effect. Some things the human mind can encode easier than others, and for whatever reason the first and last items in a list seem to fall into that category.

Stress-related memories can trigger our glands to produce stress hormones. These in turn make more glucose energy available to fuel brain activity, signaling the brain that something important has happened. While this is occurring, emotion-processing clusters in the brain boost activity in memory-forming areas, which, in turn, results in stronger and more reliable memories. According to this psychology book, research is being done for creating a drug that could blunt intrusive memories if taken soon after a traumatic experience.

The way that I view a solution like this is taking the easy way out. It seems for no matter what condition you are going through in this country, there is nobody to sit and help you through a situation besides a bottle of pills. I don’t know what should happen exactly as a solution, but if we know that weaker emotion equals weaker memories than why can’t a psychiatrist work with patients in doing what they are hoping the pill can do? I’m personally apathetic in this area of study, but I feel strongly against the use of pills so regularly.

Flashbulb memories are a clear memory of an emotionally significant moment or event. This is intriguing to me how this works, but it most certainly is true. I have talked with friends recently that I grew up with through grade school and we had one of those moments where I started a conversation off with, “Remember that one time we were out on the playground and a guy was walking around outside with a shotgun and we had to go inside on lockdown?

Of course they all remember that day and specific and minute things that happened during that time because of flashbulb memory. After reading the chapter on memory I have become more aware on how the mind remembers things. I always told myself growing up that studying things I “already knew” was completely pointless, but it turns out that you are still learning just by continuing to review. I am going to have to use this process for the upcoming psychology test if I want to get a better grade than last time!

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