Miss Psychobabble: 5 Interesting Facts about Memory

It is often said that your experience is what shapes the whole you.  Despite this, many have a poor understanding of memory since the nature of human memory is complex.

(Image Credits: 드림포유 via Flickr)
In psychology, memory is defined as the process when the information is encoded, stored, and retrieved.  Alongside this, here are 5 interesting facts about Memory…

1. Memory does not decay

Many believe that as we start to forget, it is a indication that our memory is starting to decay.

As quoted from John Irving:
"Your memory is a monster; you forget - it doesn't. It simply files things away.  It keeps things for you, or hides things from you - and summons them to your recall with a will of its own.  You think you have a memory; but it has you!" 
Memory does not go away in a sense that everything is stored but without rehearsal, memories are harder to access.

2. "Suppressed or Lost" memories can relive again

Since memory doesn't decay, even the least accessible experience can be retrieved.  Research has shown that information that has long become inaccessible can still be revived.  In fact, they are more quickly learned than new information.

3. Memory is unsteady

The simple act of recall can change memory due to "false memories".  False memory is a phenomenon in which a person recalls a memory that did not actually occur.
Majority may think that memory is stable but we forget what we forget.  This only means that it requires more effort to commit a material to the memory.

4. Forgetting helps learning

It may seem counter-intuitive but if your brain remembered and recalled everything, it may troubleshoot.  Memories of recent events are usually more important than the ones that happened decades ago.  This is why the brain "forgets" (only makes it inaccessible) less relevant information and leaves the information that is relevant to our survival.

5. Learning is in your command

When information is recalled quickly, there is little to no learning that occurred.  It may just be information that we know due to routines.  This is why learning is important.  Luckily, we can control the learning process.

People tend to think that past events can't be fixed but it can be changed.  Research has shown that people can expel painful memories by focusing on more positive ones (Levy & Anderson, 2008).  Re-interpreting past memories that are sad by focusing on its other positive aspects can transform the memories.