How Memory Works

General Solutions are broad and apply to a vast array of experiences.  Making use of a general solution always begins with an application of the general knowledge to the specific.  Going for the possibility of knowing a broadly applicable explanation invites us to expand our understanding of what we can know.  This an immensely personal activity, with episodes of knowing and not knowing and working to see how the large framework of a general solution can hold our experiences, ideas, and in this case memory.

The model of memory shown in this brief presentation is hard won.  It has proven to be a great framework for any memory that you might have.

New things are learned by first forming an initial image or memory for an individual item. This individual item processing can occur whenever you see or hear something for the first time. Item-specific processing can also occur when you choose to experience an item as if it were new to you.

Memory may consist of the impressions of a brief sensation or experience and nothing more. Memory may also become more than a single impression as the items we see around us are linked together to form a larger item in the mind. This linking together works with visual stimuli just as it does with auditory stimuli. By example, the landscape around us cannot be taken in with one glance. We must look around to get a feel for the visual environment. Similarly, the sounds that we hear in one instant fade and new sounds take their place. The continuity that we experience in seeing and hearing is partly due to our ability to perceive distinctive events over time and partly due to our ability to link them together in the mind. This knitting together of the elements around us into whole items is accomplished with an interplay between item-specific processing and relational processing. Item-specific processing and relational processing are complementary processes that depend on each other in a variety of ways.

Without item-specific processing there would be no elemental information to link together to form larger memories. Without relational processing there would be no way to link the elements that we sense, one part at a time, into a whole unit. A face would never be complete if we did not have the capacity to link the eyes, nose, mouth, and hairline together in our minds.

Essential processing refers to the activity of storing information in memory. There are many things that support essential processing that are not directly linked to the conscious control one might exert over item-specific processing or relational processing. By example, good health and nutrition, as well as getting enough sleep support essential processing. Essential processing is something that few people will consider – until it begins to go awry.