Psychology: Memory

How Things Get Remembered
Long-Term Memory System
Memory Organization
Encoding and LTM
Remembering and Forgetting

Searching for Memory
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More on Memory Organization:

In long-term memory, information is organized into categories and sub-categories. The information is in three general categories: the highest is life-time period, the middle is general-event, the bottom is event-specific knowledge. For example, you remember that you went to a family vacation in the summer when you were 12 (life-time period). You remember that you went to a beach most of the days while you were on the trip (general-event). You remember one day, your brother cut his finger with sharp sea-shells and you needed to find your mother for help (event-specific knowledge).

Life-time periods help us to find general-event and event-specific knowledge. They provide the skeletal structure of our autobiographical memories. As the time goes by, the event-specific level can be blurred and the general-event level may be strengthened. The general-event level may be the natural entry points into our autobiographical memories.

Because of the nature of the hierarchical organization, in order to recall specific events from our lives, we must first remember higher-level autobiographical knowledge. If you do not remember the life-time period, you probably do not remember what happened in the period. Some information is more important and has more weight on than other information. If you do not remember higher-level information first, you may not recall less significant aspects of the episode. For example, if you do not remember the face or the name of the person, you may not recall how you met this person. If you do not recall the party you went to 3 months ago, you may not remember your date, or what you did at the party. You need to have access to general information first to remember the details. Therefore, such high-level knowledge serve as an "access-code" that provides key into our episodic memories.

Parts of the temporal cortex contain high-level knowledge called "binding codes". The brain constructs episodic memories from bits of pieces of information stored elsewhere in the cortex. Binding codes might be the neural equivalents of the access codes. If it is inhibited, we might not recall times in our lives, people we met, or places we visited. The damage to the parts of the brain results to amnesia.

Source(s): Daniel L. Schacter, "Searching for memory: the brain, the mind, and the past", (New York, 1996).


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