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The Different Types of Memory

The human brain was once considered a single organ with specific areas allotted for different tasks. Now, with recent research studies, it has been concluded that the human brain is, in fact, one of the most complex organs of the body.

The brain is a large neural supercomputer that has neurons, firing information and tasks away to each other from one corner to the other. Memory, that was once considered to be like a stack of folders kept in a single place, is now attributed to function in many different parts of the brain.

Memory takes many different forms

Scientists now also know that memory actually takes many different forms. There is a difference between short-term memory, where you store a new phone number long enough to dial it a moment later, and long-term memory, where you store your own phone number such that you can produce it whenever asked (Miller, 1956).

Within long-term memory, there is a difference between semantic memory, where you store your knowledge that The Rolling Stones are a rock band, and episodic memory, where you may store your memory of hearing Exile on Main Street for the first time (Tulving, 1983).

The main categories of memory are sensory memory, short term memory (or working memory) and long-term memory, based on the amount of time the memory is stored.

Sensory memory

Sensory memory is the shortest-term element of memory. It is the ability to retain impressions of sensory information after the original stimuli have ended. It acts as a kind of buffer for stimuli received through the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, which are retained accurately, but very briefly. For instance, the ability to look at something and remember what it looked like with just a second of observation is an example of sensory memory.

The sensory memory for visual stimuli is known as iconic memory, the memory for aural stimuli is known as echoic memory, and that for touch as haptic memory.

Short-term memory

The distinction between short-term memory  and working memory is an ongoing debate, and the terms are often used interchangeably. There are scholars who claim that some kind of manipulation of remembered information is needed in order to qualify the task as one of working memory. Repeating digits in the same order they were presented would thus be a short-term memory task, while repeating them backward would be a working memory task.

Another viewpoint is that of Nelson Cowan, who says short-term memory refers to the passive storage of information when rehearsal is prevented with storage capacity around four items. When rehearsal is allowed and controlled attention is involved, it is a working memory task and the capacity is closer to seven items.

Visual and auditory memory

When it comes to memory, one’s senses are involved too. Visual memory involves the ability to store and retrieve previously experienced visual sensations and perceptions when the stimuli that originally evoked them, are no longer present. Various researchers have stated that as much as eighty percent of all learning takes place through the eye – with visual memory existing as a crucial aspect of learning. Auditory memory, on the other hand, involves being able to take in information that is presented orally, to process that information, store it in one’s mind and then recall what one has heard. Basically, it involves the skills of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling.

Sequential memory

Sequential memory requires items to be recalled in a specific order. In saying the days of the week, months of the year, a telephone number, the alphabet, and in counting, the order of the elements is of paramount importance. Visual sequential memory is the ability to remember things seen in sequence, while auditory sequential memory is the ability to remember things heard in sequence.

How Edublox can help

Edublox Online Tutor (EOT) houses a number of multisensory cognitive training programs that enable learners to overcome learning obstacles and reach their full potential. EOT is founded on pedagogical research and 30+ years of experience demonstrating that weak underlying foundational skills account for the majority of learning difficulties. Underlying foundational skills include visual and auditory memory; sequential memory; iconic memory; short-term, long-term and working memory. Cognitive exercises can strengthen these weaknesses leading to increased performance in reading, spelling, writing, math and learning.

EOT has been optimized for children aged between 7 and 13, is suitable for the gifted and less gifted, and can be used at home and in school. The program is effective for a variety of learning difficulties including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADD/ADHD.

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