Short term memory is part of the memory
storage system which is capable of storing material for a brief
period of time and to some extent it determines how well the rest
of your intelligences are utilized. At any one time short term
memory can contain seven, plus or minus two, "chunks" of
information. If short term memory tries to acquire more items than
it can handle, the middle items will often be displaced. Items
remain in short term memory around twenty seconds. Substantial
evidence exists to support a general dependency of reasoning upon
short term memory capacity. The longer information is stored in
short term memory the easier it is to manipulate information
needed in the execution of complex cognitive tasks (e.g. short
term memory has been shown to be correlated with problem solving,
learning, reasoning, and reading comprehension).
Short term memory models
One of the models that attempts to explain
how working memory functions is the multi component model of
working memory. The articulatory loop and the visuo-spatial sketch
pad are responsible for short term maintenance of information and
the central executive is responsible for coordinating these two
systems. The articulatory loop stores phonetic information, for
example numbers that we repeat to ourselves as soon as we learn
them and the visuo-spatial sketch pad stores visual and spatial
information. The central executive is responsible for processing
the information gathered by the other two components and
determining which information is relevant.
Another model proposed by Graeme Halford
suggests that short term memory can be better defined as the
ability to create or distinguish relationships between items or
elements. For example in the following sentence "In metropolitan
areas budget hotels charge excessively for internet access whereas
expensive hotels in seaside resorts charge more reasonable rates" the relationship between three variables
location, cost of internet access and hotel cost. Since all the
information is presented to us in one sentence the difficulty lies
in determining relationships and not in remembering the individual
items or variables.
Long term memory
Long term working memory refers to the
process of linking items in long term memory with items in short
term memory. When reading complex scientific text where our
working memory would be full fairly quickly, most of the
information we read gets stored in our long term memory. Only a
few items or concepts remain in working memory but they serve as
associations that help retrieve additional related information in
long term memory.
Your ability to store information in short
term memory can be affected by many factors. Depression and anxiety for
instance often affect your concentration and stress can also make
you feel "scattered" and jumpy. Studies
with animals have shown stress hormones to have a toxic effect on
memory centers. Medications such as painkillers and
anti-depressants can also make concentration and recall difficult
and the flu or the common cold can also affect your memory
temporarily. Sleep deprivation can also decrease brain activity
and this has negative effects on memory and concentration.
Lists and short term memory
When reading a list the first and last items
are remembered better than middle words. The
two memory processes that cause this to happen are called the
primacy and recency effects. Try to schedule frequent short breaks
as this will create more primacy/recency
peaks helping you to remember more information. The longer you study the bigger the dip in
recall between the primacy and recency effects.
It is much easier to memorize words that we can visualize. Words
that represent ideas and beliefs are usually harder to memorize
than words that can be visualized such as places or things. For
example words such as hope, peace and wisdom may may harder to
memorize than video game and bicycle.
Here are a few more cases where we may find
it easier to memorize words.
1. Words that are associated or connected with each other.
Unusual words that stand out from the rest for example the word
hippopotamus in a grocery list.
3. Words that are repeated many times.
Words that have personal meaning.