Memory is a vital element of human consciousness that enables normal functioning of a personality at all levels. In fact, it makes up a human identity as a stable element, because it records all previous experience. However, because the human brain is quite complex and involves numerous processes, a memory failure is not a rare case. Taking into account that memory includes three stages – encoding, storage, and retrieval – a breakdown at any of these stages causes gaps in memory.
Like any person, I have had numerous experiences of memory failures in my life, but some of them are particularly illustrative. One case demonstrates how selective attention works and how failure to consciously manipulate it results in memory issues. So, once I was present at personal development training, and the group of participants was rather small, about ten to fifteen people. At the beginning, the task was to introduce oneself to other participants, so that everyone told a short story about themselves in a clockwise manner. When this presentation stage ended, it appeared that this was not merely an introduction but the first task of the training. Everyone had to tell everything them remembered about a random person in a circle. I had to recover the story of a girl who was sitting right in front of me. To my great shame, I could not even recollect her name, and could only reproduce a couple of facts from her biography. This case made me realize several important things about memory. First of all, she had told her story before I did; that is why I was mostly focused on myself, on what exactly I would tell and how people were going to react. Because of this, the first stage of memory process, encoding, failed. My brain could not focus on all things simultaneously, and so it chose the data, which were subjectively more important and which involved more of my personal emotional participation. That is why the selective memory worked in favor of my own story I was going to tell and against the story of the girl, which I should have listened to more attentively. Moreover, I recognized that I remember names and stories of people who spoke after me better than those who spoke before me, which confirms this theory of mine.
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The second case of memory failure occurred to me recently, when I had quite a busy time with my studies and some personal issues in addition. As a result, I did not have enough time to sleep for several nights and my emotional state was not in its best condition. I have a personal identification number for my mobile phone, which, in fact, I have had for ages. I need to input a combination of four digits to turn it on. During this period of time, I suddenly discovered one morning that I cannot recollect the password that I have used automatically for years. This came as a surprise to me, besides it was quite annoying because I could not switch on my mobile phone. Three attempts to input the password failed, so I had to address my provider’s service center in order to resolve this problem. It is interesting that I recollected the initial password in the evening when it was a bit too late. My understanding of this memory failure is associated with the last stage of memory process, which is retrieval. Because I have had this password for a long time and, hence, repeated it not once, it was stored successfully in my long-time memory. However, because of stress and information overload, retrieval stage failed unexpectedly, which resulted in this disturbing memory gap.
My personal experience and the studies of memory principles in the class made me realize that at the moment, my memory does not function at its full potential. So, I believe that some useful techniques could be helpful to me to improve my memory and minimize the awkward situation of the type, which I described above. The first case was generally about selective attention, and it also was about my emotional intelligence, I believe. If I had been less nervous about telling about myself in front of a group of strangers, I would have definitely remembered more from their introduction. So, the techniques, in this case, would include reducing stress and boosting confidence. Besides, it is necessary to train the ability to consciously direct attention at the subject, which is important at the moment. Indeed, because of information overload, sometimes our brain fails to choose the right piece of information to remember. However, this situation was not only about that, but it reflected by issues with remembering names, which was clearly not the only case. When I got acquainted with some of the research on the subject, I discovered with relief that I am not lonely in my problem. So, Kenneth L. Higbee, Ph.D., who has been involved in studying and teaching memory for decades, reports that 41 percent of his trainings participants recognized that their main problem is about remembering the people’s names and faces ( Higbee, 2001, p.188). He suggests using mnemonics, which helps imprint the name in one’s memory. With names, such techniques seem helpful to me as associating a person with a famous one who has the same name. Picturing these people together, as well as repeating the name aloud in order to switch the audio channel, sounds reasonable to me. In fact, the same technique can be applied to numbers, which would be quite helpful in cases like I had with a forgotten password. In case I had some clue or association about that password, it would have clearly help to retrieve the stage work more smoothly. After this case, I introduced this habit into my life, and I had an opportunity to practice it with my banking card code, which consists of four digits. The first two numbers appear to correspond to a state holiday date, while the second pair stands for my age. Indeed, this technique appears to be effective.
Another field of memory process that I personally feel I might be interested in working with is absentmindedness. In fact, because I often get distracted by a range of interesting things, this makes it hard for me to concentrate on what I actually need badly at the moment, including my studies. One advice that I find helpful is to use the external reminders in order to facilitate the process of learning (Higbee, p.206). In fact, it is true that memory cannot hold an excess quantity of information. That is why, for instance, keeping in memory that I have to buy a birthday present for my friend prevents one from studying and it is successful. Moreover, people tend to have more than one item of the kind on their list, so making up physical lists does help. Personally, I find that writing down my important things to do helps to calm down, clear my mind and concentrate on the actual tasks.
To conclude, memory is a complex mechanism that involves several processes simultaneously. Because of this complexity, subjective internal and external factors can influence the efficiency of memory work. So, special memory habits can be helpful in this case. Mnemonic techniques and keeping lists of things help to do work effectively with me.
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