Is it possible to train your memories to stay?

i have been told in the past that i have a memory like an elephant.  Fo those of you who don’t know what elephants memories are like they are very good.  I can remember alot from my childhood much more than my siblings, if you ask me anything i can recall in detail the events that happened.  However my short term memory is rubbish.  Ask me what i had for tea last night you’ll get a blank response.


However if i really push my memory i can remember what i had for tea last night but it will stick in my memory from then on, moving it from my short term memory store to my long term memory store.

Decay theory relates to both LTM,  STM and relates to lack of availability.  Trace decay theory focuses on time and the limited duration of short term memory.

This theory suggests STM can only hold information for between 15 and 30 seconds unless it is rehearsed. After this time the information decays. This explanation of forgetting in short term memory assumes that memories leave a trace in the brain. A trace is some form of physical and/or chemical change in the nervous system. This theory states that forgetting occurs as a result of the automatic decay or fading of the memory trace. According to the trace decay theory of forgetting, the events between learning and recall have no affect whatsoever on recall, it’s the length of time the information has to be retained that is important. The longer the time, the more the memory trace decays and as a consequence more information is forgotten.

Miller said that short term memory holds 7+/- 2 items, STM can only hold small amounts of information and so when STM is full old memories get pushed off and new information takes over that space.  Support for the view that displacement was responsible for the loss of information from short-term memory came from studies using the ‘free-recall’ method.

This would explain why i cant remember what i had for tea last night but if i rehearse this it will be stored in my LTM and i’ll be able then to tell you everything you want to know down to the sauce i had on it….thats if you want to know.  🙂

So yes i think it is possible to train memories to stay if you rehearse them before they decay.



5 thoughts on “Is it possible to train your memories to stay?

  1. meiningera says:

    I agree, I also think that memories can be trained so that they are never forgotten. This is how people revise, learning it in a lecture theatre often means that by the time you get home you have forgotten the majority of what was taught, however, by then looking over the material again nearer to the exams and possibly re-writing or re-reading the material will often lead to you remembering the information. Of course, if the memory is a hugely dramatic one it is often hard to forget and will stick in the brain for a lot longer than a normal everyday behaviour or situation. This is where it becomes difficult as training is often needed in order to erase those memories. If an individual is involved in a dramatic accident an individual will either erase the memory completely or the moment will re-play over and over again in their mind, this is where therapy is needed. It has been found that a drug called propranolol, a beta blocker, which can stop memories from consolidating has been affective in these situations when given straight after the accident. However, there are many ethical issues with this type of drug and so has not yet been used professionally. Overall, I agree, we can train memories to either stay or leave the mind and this can be hugely beneficial for many individuals.

  2. An interesting concept and I think it is possible to move items from short term to long term memory by rehearsing them, one of the processes you didn’t mention in this process was the importance of context, our memories are often context based, so you would be more likely to remember what you had for tea if you also needed to recall other parts of the event such as what was talked about.

    The use of schema in memory recall is very important for example Brewer and Treyens (1981) performed a similar experiment to the one that you have just seen. They asked 30 participants one at a time to wait in an office for 35 seconds. In a subsequent unexpected recall test, they asked participants to remember the items they had seen, many remembered the items they expected to see in the office such as a table and chair, but failed to recall the items which did not fit in with their concept of an office such as the brick, while simultaneously adding in items which they would expect to see but were not actually there such as a telephone.

    For those with a bad memory one way of recalling important but often disconnected information is to connect them with a story, the more outlandish the better; this is a little video which shows how it works.

  3. psuphe says:

    I also agree that you can train memories to stay this is shown through school students, actors memorising scripts and so on. Another important part of remembering is if the person is engaged, if someone does not pay attention and doesn’t want to learn then they can hear a piece of information 10 times and it will still not be retained. Such as someone telling you to do a chore compared to your favourite artists new song, you’re more likely to remember the song because you can engage in this and look forward to it. This has implications for psychology in application, such as in school in trying to get school children to engage in education and therefore retain the information.

  4. Another important factor of whether or not you are able to remember something, is the concept of whether or not you are actually paying attention to what is supposed to be remembered.
    So another way in which you could train your memories, is to learn how to be more perceptive of the things going on around you. However, you would also need to know what you need to remember, especially if you are going into it in specific detail, (such as the sauce detail on the dinner example.)
    Another way to help you remember things is to regular rehearse them, even if they are already in your LTM. This applies to your earlier but underdeveloped mention of decay occurring in the LTM as well as that of the STM, indicating that if the information is not rehearsed, then no matter which store it is in, we will eventually lose it.

  5. nayaca says:

    Rehersal surely is a good method to train memories to stay, another factor which might be more difficult to influence is the extend of attention that someone pays to an event. A study of R. Nickerson and M. Adams (1979, shows how subjects were not able to recall the side which the head of a coin faces, despite the fact that people are faced with coins every day. This could be due to the fact that the image on a coin is not relevant for their purpose and therefore people don’t pay attention to this details. In order to improve the memory for a specific detail it would be cruical to raise attention for these, in example if people want to improve their memory for names they would need to pay attention when introduced to a new person.

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