Thursday, 17 November 2016
It is tempting to imagine a memory as a particular circuit of neurons , forged by the original experience, where sending an electrical impulse around this circuit in the same pattern as the original stimulus recreates the experience. However, evidence shows that recall is a much more complicated process than this. Memories are not simply little computer routines, which can be run again and again, producing the exact same response each time. Nor are they like photographic memories, which can be exposed over and over to produce an identical picture each time.
A memory is a mental experience in the present that is constructed from elements that refer to the past. For instance, your memory of eating ice-cream is built up from mental representation of such qualities as sweetness and coldness. In other words, a memory is a reconstruction of original experience. Remembering an experience is a bit like having a virtual experience that has been constructed to seem like the original. This explains why memory can be notoriously unreliable, and how different people can remember the same thing vey differently. It is even possible to make people remember things that never actually happened to them.
The ease with which you can address a memory depend on how well it was encoded in the first place. High-Quality encoding ensures that a memory is laid down as part of a rich network of associations. When it comes to recall, a memory is accessed via one or more of these associations. The more associations that exist in your memory store, the greater the number of angles from which you can access this memory, and the easier it will be to recall. This is why good encoding is the key to successful recall.
Quality encoding of data to long-term memory means not simply learning facts in isolation but understanding them and how they relate to larger factual structures and systems, so that accessing the data from multiple avenues becomes possible.