September is Alzheimer awareness month. Learn the main reasons why we forget information and find out how you can better your short-term memory.
Memory starts with perception. All the information that we hear, see , feel, smell or touch travels to the brain in what is known as an electrochemical impulse. This information is then sifted through, made simpler and integrated as it is seen fit. It is the hippocampus and frontal cortex of the brain that are in charge of deciding what information is worth remembering.
The first step towards remembering something is to pay attention to the information being presented to you.
Sensory information (information having to do with hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste) enters into your short-term memory. This temporary memory can hold 4 to 7 items for a period of about 30 seconds. To increase your short-term memory span, you can try some rehearsal strategies such as:
- Chunking: Breaking up the information provided into distinct segments
- Repetition: Continuously re-entering the information into your short-term memory
- Association: Connecting the information with other items being memorized or already in memory
Because of the limitations in both capacity and duration of short-term memory, being able to hold onto memories lies on the ability to transfer the data from short-term to long-term memory. Good attention skills and strategies will help here in reinforcing your ability to recall memories.
Many people assume that forgetting something is one of the downfalls of aging and a sign that their memory is taking a turn for the worse. However, this is not really the case. Forgetting is an important part of the memory process and a key component of a healthy mind.
The four main reasons why we forget information presented to us are:
- Storage failure: This boils down to our failure to commit a piece of information to our long-term memory. We forget most things soon after we learn it. The question we should be asking is: are we paying enough attention?
- Retrieval failure: This is one of the more common causes of forgetting. We store memories in bits and pieces and reintegrate them when it comes time to remember. If we do not make use of a memory for an extended period of time, they will fade away.
- Interference: Memories have a tendency of interfering with one another. New memories may also disrupt old ones or vice versa from time to time. The likelihood of interference increases with the number of items to memorize.
- Motivation: It is only natural that information that is considered to be more important to us will be easier for us to recall.
To get a head start on improving your brain health, register for the Brain Training course.