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How human memory works - Very basic overview of Human memory

Updated on November 14, 2011

This is the first of three part series of articles discussing about human memory.

Very basic overview of human memory

Memory can be defined as encoding, storage and retrieval of information. It works via complex neurological mechanisms that are not yet identified. However, scientists know some of the basic principles of memory. In addition, memory can change over time and it can mix with our fantasy.

Three main principles of memory

1. Three stages of memory: - Encoding, storage, and retrieval are the three main stages of memory.

2. Three main stores of memory are sensory, short term and long term memory.

3. Different parts of the brain is allocated for different kinds of information.

Three stages of memory

These stages can be understood clearly if we compare our organic memory to a computer memory system. However, these systems are fundamentally different.

1. Encoding stage : - Environmental information is translated into and stored as a meaningful entity that the brain can understand. This is similar to converting information like text, pictures and videos into binary language.

2. Storage stage : - Here stored information is maintained over time. Here it is similar to putting information into to a hard drive. In the case of RAM, maintaining information through electric charge.

3. Retrieval stage : - Taking out memory information that are previously encoded. This is similar to taking out the binary information and converting that to meaningful something.

However, unlike computer system the memory cannot be compared to a constant stream of events stored like a video. Our memory changes at the time of encoding. In addition, it can change as the time goes by. This memory falsification can sometimes have drastic consequences in legal proceedings, by affecting eyewitness accounts. Memory can fail in any of the above stages.

Part 2 - What are the three memory stores and how to improve memory


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    • njmanura profile image

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 6 years ago from Sri Lanka


      Thanks for your insightful comments

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      Good intro - I'm about to start your second part. Thanks for posting these hubs, I could definitely use some improvement on my memory.

    • njmanura profile image

      Dr Manura Nanayakkara 6 years ago from Sri Lanka

      Thanks for the comment, I have published the second part and it is little longer than the first one

    • JT Walters profile image

      JT Walters 6 years ago from Florida

      Good summary article.