Short term and long term memory – Essay Sample

Memory which is categorized into three main areas plays a very important role in any living animal.  An imagination of what could happen if we did not have memory might make us appreciate that we have it. Lack of it could lead to detrimental instances like not being able to recognize others, write or even talk among many others. It is therefore paramount to understand clearly the three types namely long term, short term and sensory memory. In simple language, memory can be termed as the system of processing information ( Bruce, 1997).

In the sensory memory, it is where it is determined whether the information received proceeds to working memory. At this level, iconic, echoic and haptic memories have sensory memories which each of these have got their own sensory channel. The information gets passed to short term memory mainly by attention. This means it is only information that is assigned importance by the individual that proceeds to short term memory. That is why at times depending on importance we assign to various information that we receive, some we can remember whereas others we forget immediately.  This stage therefore be said to act like a buffer to various stimuli received from various sections (Jeffrey, 2008) .

The short term memory even as the name suggests, acts as a scratch –card for the temporal recall of information.  The unfortunate thing with this working memory is that it has got a limited capacity and also decays very fast. This means any task for execution that calls for short term memory needs to be performed as early as possible to avoid it being forgotten. One way to enhance short term memory is through chunking of  information/ breaking it into bits for example instead of having a continues long sentence,   one can break it into point form and probably  make use of  bullets. The thing that really affects short term memory is disturbance when performing certain tasks, thus calls to seriousness and keenness.

The long term memory has its main mandate of preserving/ storing information over a prolonged period of time. The information that manages to successfully be transferred to long term memory is retained more since there is little decay unlike the working memory. This memory is further subdivided into semantic and episodic memories.  Episodic memory memorizes experiences and events in serial form whereas semantic memory records the skills, facts and concepts in a structured   format that we have acquired. In long term memory, information is stored, deleted or retrieved. Through rehearsal and proper encoding of information from the short term memory is stored in long term memory and more so when the learning period is distributed over time. Deletion of information in this memory occurs due to interference and decay. Emotional disturbance is also believed to affect retain of information at this memory (Michael, 2009).

Retroactive interference takes place when there is a mix   up information leading to the loss of previously learned information due to the newly acquired one. On the other hand proactive interference occurs when newly learnt information is lost as a result of it getting mixed up with previously learnt one. This therefore calls for students to be thorough when studying and rehearse enough so that concepts and facts can stick to   the long term memory as well as to minimize such overriding of information. Other types of forgetting include distortion and fading (Ibid).


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