Discover more from The Mind, Brain, Body Digest
How Your Memory Works 🧠
The Neuroscience behind memory (10min read)
What is memory?
How to Improve Memory
Never forget a phone number
BE SAUVE tool, never forget a name again!
Surprise Ending 🧠
Today is all about memory, and what better way to learn about it than a game?!
Let’s start with a memory test game, below is a list of 14 words, take a minute to memorize as many of the words as you can!
List 1: sheets, pillow, mattress, blanket, comfortable, room, dream, lay, chair, rest, tired, night, dark, time
In a couple of minutes, I’m going to ask you how many of these words you remember, NO CHEATING!
Ever Wonder What is Memory?
In the scientific community, this is a much-debated topic and there are always new theories coming out with new ideas of how it works.
Here we will cover some of the more consistent basics to give you an idea of how our memory works!
Memory is the process of taking in information from the world around us, processing it, storing it, and later recalling that information, sometimes many years later.
Our memory can store about a petabyte of information... that’s a million gigabytes of information.
Storage space is actually not an issue for our brain, it’s getting what we store to stick!
There are 4 basic types of memory, Sensory Memory, Working Memory, Short-term Memory & Long-term Memory.
Let’s break them down!
Mastering Sensory Memory
Sensory memory is made up by our senses and lasts for seconds at a time, this is where our memory starts.
We are taking in 20 million bits of sensory information every second, we just don’t push much of that information into a deeper form of memory.
The sounds you hear when walking
Every flower, tree, and bug you saw on that walk
The feeling of the sidewalk under your feet while walking
After your walk, you don’t remember each of these individual things unless you decided to intentionally put your focus & attention on them.
If you do, you can move this into your short & long-term memory.
The vast majority of your sensory memories are forgotten, you probably don’t even remember the specific sounds you heard in the last 30 seconds.
On to Short-term Memory
Short-term memory allows a person to recall a limited string of information for a short period of time. These memories disappear quickly, after about 30 seconds.
This type of memory is only made to hold a couple of pieces of information at a time. Some scientists believe that number is 5-7 chunks, others believe 3 +/- 1.
An example of Short-term memory is remembering a phone number while getting a pen to write it down.
Ready to Learn About Working Memory?
Working memory is commonly lumped together with Short term memory, but it’s different in that Working memory allows you to manipulate the information inside of it, not just store it.
When we are learning something, it is our Working memory at work trying to create sets of links to store this information effectively.
An example of your Working memory would be baking something, which requires a person to recall the ingredients they already added as they go.
You’ll Love Long-term Memory
Long-term memory is anything past the last 30 seconds. A lot of people think it’s only things from weeks or years ago, but that’s not actually true!
Most researchers divide Long-term memory into two subcategories: Implicit & Explicit memories.
Explicit memories are conscious memories of events, facts, or things a person learns.
Things like the year you graduated from high school, or the birthday of your best friend are explicit memories.
Explicit memories can be broken down into two subcategories as well: Episodic & Semantic memory.
Episodic memory stores memories of events & facts. Both of the memories above are episodic memories.
Semantic memories on the other hand are general knowledge about the world. You may remember a fact or event you did not experience because you learned or studied it.
Knowing that grass is green, or how to use scissors are examples of semantic memories.
Remembering Implicit Memory
Implicit memory is different from explicit memory because they are mostly unconscious & automatic memories.
There are 4 subcategories of implicit memory: Procedural memory, Associative memory, Non-Associative Memory, & priming.
Procedural memory helps a person perform familiar tasks, such as walking or driving.
At first, they might have to learn to do these things and remember specific skills, but eventually, these tasks become an automatic part of procedural memory. The cerebellum plays an important role in this type of memory.
Associative memories are acquired through conditioning, meaning a certain stimulus equals a certain response.
Pavlov's dogs are the most common example of this kind of learning. If you don’t know about that experiment, Youtube it!
Non-associative memory comes in 2 forms, habituation & sensitization.
Habituation is one of the simplest forms of memory. Have you ever walked into a room that smelled terrible, but eventually you go “nose-blind” to the smell? You are habituated to it!
Sensitization happens when you’ve been exposed to a particular stimulus, like watching a scary movie, and it increases the response to certain stimuli.
Imagine walking down a hall after watching that movie, if someone popped out to scare you, you would be startled more easily because the film sensitized you.
Priming is the last type of implicit memory, and the easiest way to demonstrate this one is with an experiment. For example, if I had you read the sentence,
“Roll the ball across the table.”
And then asked you to fill in the blank of this “b--l” you are more likely to spell the word “ball” than you are “bowl” because in the sentence before, you were primed with the word “ball.”
Memory Test List 2
We'll get back to learning about memory after a short break, to complete our memory game!
How many of these words do you remember from List 1?
List 2: door, tree, eye, song, pillow, juice, orange, radio, rain, car, sleep, cat, dream, eat
How many did you get? 1, 10, all 14? Mention me on Facebook with your number!
Quick question… Did you say that "sleep" was on List 1? Only pillow and dream were on list 1… What just happened?!?
You were primed, it’s alright, it happens to the best of us! Go back to List 1.
What do all of the words in List 1 make you think about or what do they describe?
Planting false memories like this isn’t as hard as it seems when using priming, use this power wisely!
Understanding “Where” Memory is in Our Brain
The Hippocampus, Cerebellum & Neocortex are the areas most often attributed with the job of memory storage!
The Hippocampus & Neocortex help us form, store, and use explicit memories.
The Cerebellum is where we store and use a ton of implicit memories like procedural memory, & muscle memory.
Finally, our body is the last place we store implicit memories, like our sensory memory & feelings!
This is the science behind “triggers” related to trauma, when we experience trauma areas like the Hippocampus turn off so that we can survive.
This means memories get stored in our bodies in ways that we can put words to because they’re implicit often, but we can “feel/sense” them.
When a sense that we took in and remember from the traumatic experience hits the sensory system (trigger), a sympathetic response happens (fight/flight/freeze) because our body remembers this trigger as dangerous.
That being said, all of these areas work together to store our memory, it’s very hard to say that 1 area stores exactly this type of memory vs another.
Research around this topic is always changing and updating, but these are some of the basic principles of how Memory works.
Now, let’s use this knowledge to our advantage with some Memory Tools!
Learning Memory Tools/Hacks
Our brain loves to group things together, and chunking is a great example of this!
Let’s play another game! Try to memorize these numbers. Read the list a couple of times, and then grab a piece of paper and write as many as you can remember down:
9 1 5 11 2 4 6 15 10 3 7 13 12 8 14
How’d you do? How many were you able to get in order?
Let’s try again, with a new list:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
What happened? Both lists are the exact same numbers, however, the second list is chunked into a series of numbers you’re familiar with!
This is why phone numbers are chunked the way they are as well.
Instead of 10 separate numbers, you only need to remember 3 chunks of numbers:
8161956570 vs. 816-195-6570
This also works for letters & words too, for example, try to memorize this list of letters:
Now try to memorize the same list of letters, but chunked:
CAT ABC IBM XYZ HEN KFC
You thought we were done? We can still chunk the list again to make it even easier to remember:
CAT HEN | IBM KFC | XYZ ABC
This time we used categories like animals, companies, & alphabet to chunk the list again!
All 3 of these lists are the exact same letters, but by chunking, we were able to go from memorizing 18 letters, to 6 groups and finally to 3 categories.
Crazy right? So, how can you use this to your advantage day to day?
Exploring Acronyms & Acrostics
Most people are familiar with acronyms, so we won’t spend much time on them.
An example of an acronym is using HOMES to help you memorize the Great Lakes:
You use the first letter of the words you’re trying to memorize to create 1 word to remember!
An “acrostics” are like the cousin of acronyms in that it takes the first letters of the words you’re trying to remember, but rather than make a single word from the first letters, you assign each letter a new word to make a memorable phrase.
For example, does the acrostic “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (PEMDAS)” ring any bells?
That’s 5 or 6th-grade math you’re remembering… How is that possible?! Chunking my dear readers, chunking!
Name Tool: BE SUAVE, Never Forget a Name Again!
Alright, let’s get practical & tactical with this information. Has someone ever forgotten your name? How’d it make you feel?
It doesn't feel great. Wouldn’t you like to know how to never make someone feel like this? BE SUAVE is here to help you!
This is a tool from the memory legend, Jim Kwik, he’s been known to memorize lists of hundreds of words, letters, and numbers!
Believe it. Whether you believe you can remember names or you believe you can't remember names, you're right. Step 1 is believing you can!
Exercise it. Step 2 is to practice using BE SUAVE to remember names.
Say it. Step 3 is to say their name after you learn it!
Use it. Step 4 is to use their name 3-4x over the course of your convo.
Ask about it. Step 5 is to ask about it! How do they spell it? Where did it come from?
Visualize it. Step 6 is to paint a picture of it. For Mark, imagine yourself making a checkmark on the person’s forehead. The sillier the visualization, the better.
End with it. Step 7 is to end the convo with it!
This tool has helped me in my professional & personal life more times than I can count, I hope it helps you too!
See Ya Next Time!
Thanks so much for tuning in for today’s Heroes Digest! I appreciate your support, and as always, until next time… Live Heroically!
P.s. I have one last trick up my sleeve… Need help memorizing today’s lesson? There’s an acrostic inside it!
Go grab the first letter of each section title.
The first person to email me what you find gets to choose the topic of an upcoming Heroes Digest, good luck 😉