Memory Process

Memory Process





Psychologistsdefine memory as encoding, storing and retrieving information. Theseform the three steps in the memory process. In the first process, theinformation is encoded, which involves converting the informationinto physical and chemical stimuli. The information must be changedin order for the information to be put in the encoding process. Forexample, a word that is seen or read in a book must be encoded orchanged into sound or meaning. Encoding of information can be visual,acoustic or semantic. The second stage involves storage of theencoded information. During the storage step, the information ismaintained in the memory for a particular period of time. It involvesthe creation of record for the processed information. The way theinformation is stored in the memory process is influenced by how itis received. This differentiates between long term memory and shortterm memory. The final step is the retrieval of the storedinformation. It involves recalling or recollection of the storedinformation which is located and brought back to consciousness. Theattempts to retrieve the stored information may be effortless ordemanding depending on several factors such as the type ofinformation (Nalbantian, 2011). For example, if a subject is givenfour names to remember, and then asked to recall the third name, heor she needs to go through the list of names to retrieve the thirdname.

Thereare several factors that have a direct impact on memory. One of themost important factors that affect memory is age. Studies suggestthat the ability of infants to encode and thus store information issignificantly low compared to adults. However, it is important tonote that by the age of six months, children can recall information.Also, loss of memory is also associated with old age. Studies suggestthat there is a significant decline in memory as an individualbecomes older. This has been associated with the onset of medicalconditions such as Alzheimer’s disease had impairs the cognitiveabilities and neurotransmitters (Nalbantian et al, 2011). Studiessuggest that physical exercise influence the level ofneurotransmitters and thus enhances memory. This is explained bybetter academic performance by more active children. Odors andemotions have also been found to affect memories by reactivatingstored information. For example, in majority of autobiographies, themain events are emotional suggesting that people tend to recallemotional events compared to neutral events. This is because hormonessuch as cortisone and adrenaline produced in emotional events enhanceneuron communication which enhances memory. Other factors that arelikely to affect memory include stress, mental illness and memorydisorders (Danziger, 2008).

Theinterference theory in memory development refers to interactionbetween new materials and past materials in the memory and how ifinfluences the comprehension of new materials. Proactive interferencerefers to forgetting or loss of information as a result ofinterference from prior information. It involves past memoriesinhibiting new memories. On the other hand, retroactive interferenceinvolves new memories affecting the retrieval of previously storedmemory. Understanding proactive and retroactive interferencemechanisms is essential in maximizing retention through long termmemory. For example, the development of curriculum should take intoconsideration the interference theory to ensure favorable interactionbetween materials learned at different stages of the learningprocess. Loss of the encoded and stored information is referred to asforgetting. Forgetting can either be spontaneous or gradual.Interference theory is one the theories that explain forgetting.Others include retrieval failure (cue dependent forgetting), tracedecay, decay theory and organic causes (Wixted, 2004).


Danziger,K. (2008). Markingthe mind: A history of memory.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nalbantian,S. et al. (2011). Thememory process: neuroscientific and humanistic perspectives,Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Wixted,J. (2004). &quotThe psychology and neuroscience of forgetting.”AnnualReview of Psychology55, pp. 235–269