We’ve all had problems with forgetting something that we just saw or heard. Putting down the car keys for a moment and then spending the rest of the day looking for them is a good example of short-term memory loss.
Not only is it inconvenient, but it can be terribly stressful, especially if the memory that was lost was the one you needed for an exam.
Fortunately, there are a number of exercises that can be used to improve an individual’s short-term memory, ensuring that this memory loss doesn’t become someone’s constant and embarrassing companion.
There are a number of theories about how memory works and even today, there is still much that is not understood about the human mind.
- Sensory memory is an immediate form of memory, lasting only a second or so. This memory is what is used to transfer sensory impressions into our short-term memory.
- Short-term memory is the part of the process by which information is stored for a short amount of time, usually no more than 30 seconds, before being transferred into the individual’s long-term memory.
- Long-term memory is where information is held permanently.
Because short-term memory is part of the process of storing memory and preparing it for transfer to long-term memory, it is highly vulnerable to being interrupted.
That is why so many people forget someone’s name if they are interrupted right after being introduced.
The interruption made it difficult or impossible for the short-term memory to be successfully transferred into the individual’s long-term memory.
Other Causes for Short-Term Memory Loss
It is important to note that short-term memory loss may indicate a serious underlying health condition.
Individuals who are suffering constant memory loss or who have discovered that they are now unexpectedly losing the ability to remember things when they previously should immediately contact a health professional in order to ensure that they are not suffering from some serious medical condition.
Exercises to Maintain Short-Term Memories
There are a number of exercises that can be used to help to improve the student’s ability to recall information.
In many cases, these exercises can be performed quickly, without interfering with the individual’s ability to carry out any other work over the course of the day.
It is generally accepted that short-term memory can only store a very limited amount of information.
Many scientists believe that no more than seven discrete pieces of information at any time. “Chunking” allows the individual to separate out larger amounts of information into discrete bits of information that are more amiable to being transferred to long-term memory storage.
For example, a 10-digit phone number can be converted into three chunks of information: the area code, first three digits and last four digits.
The same can be done for many other items of information.
By practicing this chunking, or dividing larger amounts of information into a smaller number of information segments, the individual can improve their ability to remember information while also improving their organizational skills.
Mnemonic devices are a method used to associate information with vibrant imagery that lends itself to being easily remembered.
Most commonly seen in verbal and written mnemonic devices, this can also be used by creating a striking image that is associated with the fact in question.
For example, astronomers have long used the mnemonic “Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me!” to remember the various types of stars.
By creating this imagery, whether it is verbal or visual, an individual can improve their memory retention while also creating an amusing game.
Developing Mental Associations
This exercise works on the fact that our memory is all interconnected. Trying to remember a single fact in isolation can be tremendously difficult when compared to trying to remember it in association with other facts.
This exercise involves trying to “link” any memories we have with other information.
For example, thinking about a home address would include all of the other memories associated with that home, such as family members, the neighborhood, and even such information as the color of the home’s mailbox.
When a fact is forgotten, this method can be effectively used to try and regain the memory, by “working around the fringes” and thinking of any other facts that are associated with the memory.
In fact, sometimes these exercises can help restore memories that the individual didn’t even realize he or she had.
One of the most effective exercises for improving short-term memory retention is also the simplest. Repeating a fact over and over again gives it a chance to become fixed in the individual’s memory.
By creating an exercise where one repeats a new phone number five or more times after getting it an individual can drastically reduce the probability that the memory will be forgotten.
This can be especially useful when combined with exercises such as breaking the information up into chunks or associating it with other memories.
An often-ignored exercise is simply focusing on the material at hand. Our modern society is full of distractions, from text messaging to the Internet.
By taking time to focus on noting and thinking about new information, an individual can dramatically improve his or her chances of retaining it over the long term.
Not only does this method improve the brain’s memory memory-retention, but it can also give individuals a badly needed moment to rest and consider the events of the day.
The brain is a truly incredible organ, but sometimes it does need a bit of help to ensure that all the information we gather through the course of the day is retained.
By using these simple exercises, it is possible to ensure that the myriad memories received over the course of the day will find their way safely to the brain’s long-term storage.