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How Does Memory Work

Updated on March 23, 2012

The ability of the mind to retain past experiences and to recall them to consciousness is dependent upon the function of Memory. Past events are revived in the form of" memory images," and the whole process is analyzed into four stages.

(1) Memorizing is the condition of receiving a mental impression and fixing it.

Experimental psychologists have investigated the methods of memorizing and their results are of great value to the pedagogue. For example, it is found that better memorizing is obtained by learning as a whole rather than in small sections. Though the function of education is mainly to train intelligence, the development of memorizing power is an essential adjunct.

(2) Retention of an experience is probably dependent upon a neurological change in the brain and is intensified by the frequency of impression and revival.

(3) Recall results from some association with the primary experience. It is common knowledge that when we wish to remember something we endeavor to find all sorts of associations.

(4) Recognition is the feeling of familiarity aroused by the recall.

Inability to remember an experience, in other words, forgetting, would appear to be almost as common as remembering.

This may be due to the fact that small attention was paid to the event; but more commonly it is a result of defective power of recall. As a rule we tend to retain and to recall the agreeable rather than the opposite. Unpleasant experiences are apt to be exiled in the mind- "repressed"- and can only recur when the repressing force, the "censorship," is relaxed, as in sleep. By some, this repressing or forgetting is regarded as a protective mechanism whereby the mind is shielded from noxious memories.

The cultivation of a good memory is consequent upon keen observation with the power of concentrated attention, along with a systematized method of arranging things to be remembered and the faculty of vivid association.

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