SYMPOSIUM: Understanding Memory

I have decided to back-track slightly and go back to basics. As I intend to investigate into the construction and distortion of memory as part of this project it is important to gain an understanding the science behind memory and the way it works as best I can.

mem·o·ry/ˈmem(ə)rē/

Noun:
  1. A person’s power to remember things: “I’ve a great memory for faces”.
  2. The power of the mind to remember things: “the brain regions responsible for memory”.

Memory has been widely defined as a web. When we create memories they are stored as individual segments, however when we make new memories that relate in some way to previous segments, links are made between the two. When one is accessed, some or all of those linked to it are also accessed. This is a very simple way to explain how our memory can be distorted. After many years these links begin to combine memories as we forget small aspects. The brain has triggers that will allow access to these memories and trigger multiple in one instance.

“memories for individual events resemble jigsaw puzzles that are assembled from many pieces,” it is normal for people to “knit together the relevant fragments and feelings into a coherent narrative or story.” (Schacter, 1996)

Memories that are accessed most often will be strengthened and easier to remember. Here comes the incorporation of photography. Objects and images remind us of a certain moment within the memory causing us to recall it more often as we come across the image. With every recollection it is strengthening the memory itself. However, with each recall we are focusing on certain aspects of the event and dismissing others as they may not be relevant to the point of recall. This causes these disregarded elements to become weaker and lost over time.

Experimental psychologist Frederic Bartlett first made this point in his landmark 1932 text, Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. “Some widely held views have to be completely discarded,” he wrote, “and none more completely than that which treats recall as the re-excitement in some way of fixed and changeless ‘traces.’” To the contrary, he believed that remembering is “an imaginative reconstruction, or construction, built out of the relation of our attitude toward a whole active mass of organized past reactions or experience.” (Bartlett, 1932)

After working through psychology in College I remember certain aspects of the way the brain works and the names of different areas. The hippocampus is the area of the brain that holds the memory. However the brains memory segment is separated by two main areas; explicit and implicit. Our abilities to do everyday things are learned and are held by our memory in order for us to know how to do carry out the actions we need. This part of the memory is classified as implicit: it is held by the brain without our conscious knowledge. Which means we are not consciously thinking of how to do access this part and carry out a task, we subconsciously do this. The explicit part of the memory are what we universally class as our memories; divided still into short and long-term.


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