Memory


Memory is defined as the faculty by which sense impressions and
information are retained in the mind and subsequently recalled. A person’s
capacity to remember and the total store of mentally retained impressions and
knowledge also formulate memory. (Webster, 1992)
"We all possess inside our heads a system for declassifying, storing and
retrieving information that exceeds the best computer capacity, flexibility, and
speed. Yet the same system is so limited and unreliable that it cannot
consistently remember a nine-digit phone number long enough to dial it"
(Baddeley, 1993). The examination of human behavior reveals that current
activities are inescapably linked by memories. General “competent” (1993)
behavior requires that certain past events have effect on the influences in the
present. For example, touching a hot stove would cause a burn and therefore
memory would convey a message to not repeat again. All of this is effected by
the development of short-term memory (STM) and long-term memory (LTM).
Memories can be positive, like memories of girlfriends and special events,
or they can be negative, such as suppressed memories. Sexual abuse of children
and adolescents is known to cause severe psychological and emotional damage.
Adults who were sexually abused in childhood are at a higher risk for developing
a variety of psychiatric disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders,
and mood disorders. To understand the essential issues about traumatic memory,
the human mind’s response to a traumatic event must first be understood. The
memory is made up of many different sections with each having different
consequences on one another.
Can people remember what they were wearing three days ago? Most likely no,
because the memory only holds on to what is actively remembered. What a person
was wearing is not important so it is thrown out and forgotten. This type of
unimportant information passes through the short-term memory. "Short-term
memory is a system for storing information over brief intervals of time.”
(Squire, 1987) It’s main characteristic is the holding and understanding of
limited amounts of information. The system can grasp brief ideas which would
otherwise slip into oblivion, hold them, relate them and understand them for its
own purpose. (1987) Another aspect of STM was introduced by William James in
1890, under the name “primary memory” (Baddeley, 1993). Primary memory refers
to the information that forms the focus of current attention and that occupies
the stream of thought. “This information does not need to be brought back to
mind in order to be used" (1993). Compared to short-term memory, primary
memoryplaces less emphasis on time and more emphasis on the parts of attention,
processing, and holding. No matter what it is called, this system is used when
someone hears a telephone number and remembers it long enough to write it down.
(Squire, 1987)
Luckily, a telephone number only consists of seven digits or else no one
would be able to remember them. Most people can remember six or seven digits
while others only four or five and some up to nine or ten. This is measured by
a technique called the digit span, developed by a London school teacher, J.
Jacobs, in 1887. Jacobs took subjects (people), presented them with a sequence
of digits and required them to repeat the numbers back in the same order. The
length of the sequence is steadily increased until a point is reached at which
the subject always fails. The part at which a person is right half the time is
defined as their digit span. A way to improve a digit span is through rhythm
which helps to reduce the tendency to recall the numbers in the wrong order.
Also, to make sure a telephone number is copied correctly, numbers can be
grouped in twos and threes instead of given all at once. (Baddeley, 1993)
Another part of short-term memory is called chunking, used for the
immediate recall of letters rather than numbers. When told to remember and
repeat the letters q s v l e r c i i u k, only a person with an excellent
immediate memory would be able to do so. But, if the same letters were given
this way, q u i c k s i l v e r, the results would be different. What is the
difference between the two sequences? The first were 11 unrelated letters, and
the second were chunked into two words which makes this task easier. (1993)
"Short-term memory recall is slightly better for random numbers than for
random letters, which sometimes have similar sounds. It is better for
information heard rather than seen. Still, the basic principals hold true: At
any given moment, we can