I am totally amazed when a friend reminds me of something we did many years ago. How on earth does she remember that incident. As she starts to describe what the day was like, what we were doing , where we were, it seems a very vague memory comes to the surface. But, of course I doubt if it is a real memory or just a faint feeling that yes I was there.
So, she says to me “Remember that guy at the park that wanted to pay us to clean his house?” Hmmm, no. “Yeah, we went down to the beach that day stopped at the park to watch the old guys play bocce ball. And this old man told us he had just lost his wife, but it had actually been two years ago, anyway he wanted to know if we would come over and clean his house.” Hmmm, no, but yeah maybe I kind of remember.
So, I did a little digging about this memory stuff and learned something called Levels of Processing.
We process information in three different ways:
1. Memory structure process is the pattern of association among items of information that is stored in memory.
For instance, if I give you two statements and you must answer yes or no: This sentence is in english. This sentence is in Times New Roman font. Which do you answer more quickly? You probably found This sentence is in english produced a faster response. This is because your long term memory is organized as a network of linked ideas. Knowing english words is closer in your memory than knowing the names of fonts. Names for fonts are “farther” apart in your memory and takes a longer chain of associations to connect them.
2. Phonemic processing – which is when we encode its sound.
My name is Victoria and I may have only introduced myself once, but I often get called Veronica or Virginia. At least the person remembered my name started with a V. So, the sounds of names or words go into short term memory and what is termed shallow processing, it takes some deep processing to really remember things in long term memory or a deeper process of memory.
~ Which brings me to
3. Semantic processing – serves as a mental dictionary or encyclopedia of basic knowledge.
That must be why some people have encyclopedic memories, that part of their memory just works better than most. So, with a semantic memory -long term memory- simple math skills , word and language, and other general facts are really lasting. It is our basic factual knowledge.
Deep processing involves a more meaningful analysis of information and leads to better recall. In other words, there are just more things that relate to that memory which makes it easier to recall.
And, this is why I want you to take action today.
So why is this important for you to know?
Do you remember any of those happy times from childhood? Those memories are likely triggered by the circumstance surrounding them, and you can bring them to the surface easily. The same goes for unhappy times, but sometimes you just don’t want to remember because they were unpleasant, but they are affecting you just the same. That is our human survival mode operating unconsciously in the background. Even if we don’t remember we intuitively know what will keep us safe.
But, now you find yourself all grown up with these memories and some memories not-so-well-remembered.
The pleasant ones, focus on those because I want you to also focus on making new pleasant memories so they can guide you toward a happier self.
- Memory has levels of processing
- Memories from childhood can make you happy or sad
- How deeply you focused on those early memories can determine your behavior
- New memories can also having lasting effects on your behavior and thinking
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Levels of Processing. Retrieved from Levels of Processing
Introduction to Psychology (1998) Memory pg 414-322