Memory

Young man with string tied to finger trying to remember something.Affects storing and later retrieving information or getting information out.

Three types of memory are important to learning, “working memory”, “short term memory” and “long term memory.” All three types of memory are used in the processing of both verbal and non-verbal information.

  1. “Working memory” refers to the ability to hold on to pieces of information until the pieces blend into a full thought or concept. For example, reading each word until the end of a sentence or paragraph and then understanding the full content.
  2. “Short-term memory” is the active process of storing and retaining information for a limited period of time. The information is temporarily available but not yet stored for long-term retention.
  3. “Long-term memory” refers to information that has been stored and that is available over a long period of time. Individuals might have difficulty with auditory memory or visual memory.

How does it all work together to learn?

One reads a sentence and holds on to it. Then the next and the next. By the end of the paragraph, he pulls together the meaning of the full paragraph. This is working memory. He continues to read the full chapter and study it. Information is retained long enough to take a test and do well. This is short-term memory. But, unless the information is reviewed and studied over a longer period of time, it is not retained. With more effort over time, the information might become part of a general body of knowledge. It is long-term memory.  If there are deficits in any or all of these types of memory, the ability to store and retrieve information required to carry out tasks can be impaired.