Sangeetha Pulapaka


    No, we do not have unlimited memory to remember things. This is because unlike the computer's memory are memories are real. Our memories come from our habits, our ideologies, our hopes and fears are all influenced by what we remember of our past. Memory also represents a change in who we are because it is predictive of who we will become. We remember things more easily if we have been exposed to similar things before, so what we remember from the past has a lot to do with what we can learn in the future.

   Skills like swimming (we discussed about this remember?), how to ride a cycle are something we never forget how to do. Modern computers encode memory as a vast array of independent, digital bits of information that are “randomly accessible.” Functionally, this means that your computer can bring up your best friend’s phone number without accessing any information about what your best friend looks like or how you met. The human brain stores memory in a very different way; recalling your best friend’s phone number. recalling your best friend’s phone number may very well bring to mind your friend’s face, a pleasant conversation that you had, and the title of the movie that the two of you are going to see. While computer memories are discrete and informationally simple, human memories are tangled together and informationally complex.  

But how is the memory relationship actually made? The process from both a biological and a behavioral perspective is critically dependent on reinforcement. Reinforcement can come in the form of repetition or practice; we remember that two plus two equals four because we’ve heard it so many times. Reinforcement can also occur through emotional arousal; most people remember where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy was shot because of the highly emotional content of that event. Arousal is also a product of attention, so memories can be reinforced independent of context by paying careful attention and consciously attempting to remember. From a practical perspective, that means that we can remember something best if we learn it in a context that we understand, or if it is emotionally important to us. Bye!