Memory and Database

Monday, November 20, 2006

Defining Memory


mentally retaining impressions of past experience

the ability to remember

the ability to take in and store information and retrieve that information for later use.

Philosopher John Sutton proposes that memory is “a label for a diverse set of cognitive capacities by which humans and perhaps other animals retain information and reconstruct past experiences, usually for present purposes.”


Three stages to memory:
1. Acquisition of information, which involves our sensory memory.

Everything we perceive through our senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing, and touch enters our sensory memory.

Example situation: As we stand at the edge of the surf, we feel the sunlight on our face and the sand between our toes, smell the freshness of the air, hear the seagulls crying, and – once we brave the cold water – taste the salt in the ocean, and we know we are at the beach. We feel all these sensations at once, but the images remain in our minds for only a couple of seconds.

2. Short-term memory captures selected information from those sensations and holds that information for a brief time – as short as a half a minute.

We may capture the smell and taste of the salt water but we may not register the sound of the birds.

3. From short-term, it either gets forgotten, or goes to long term.

Two kinds of long-term memory: procedural and declarative.

Procedural memory: memory for skills and procedures, the act of “knowing how” to do something. We use our procedural memory to remember how to swim in the ocean, or how to hold a golf club, operate a can opener, use a keyboard, or drive a car.

Declarative memory
: memory for facts; it is our ability to “know that," unlike procedural memory, it can be “declared” or explained – is again divided into two components.

Declarative is then divided into 2 types of memory: Semantic memory and Episodic memory

Semantic Memory – knowledge for the meaning of words and how to apply them, and our recall of information of the wider world. (allows us to know that a dog is a dog, not a cat; that the ocean we are standing in is the Pacific, not the Atlantic; or that the capitol of Austria is Vienna. We may not remember when we first learned to distinguish cats and dogs, or when we learned the relative locations of different oceans, but we have absorbed and retained the facts.

Episodic Memory –
remembrance of personally experiences events or experiences – episodes in our own lives. Our ability to consciously reflect on our life and recall experiences and emotions from our past.


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