Brain Facts

Brain Facts

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Factors that can influence how effectively memory functions.

1) Degree of vigilance, alertness, attentiveness, and concentration

Attentiveness is often said to be the tool that engraves information into memory. Thus, attention deficits can radically reduce memory performance. You can improve your memory capacity by making a conscious effort to repeat and integrate information.

2) Interest, strength of motivation, and need or necessity

It is easier to learn when the subject fascinates you. Thus, motivation is a factor that enhances memory. Some young people who do not always do very well at the subjects they are forced to take in school often have a phenomenal memory for statistics about their favourite sports.

3) Affective values associated with the material to be memorized, and the individual's mood and intensity of emotion

Your emotional state when an event occurs can greatly influence your memory of it. Thus, if an event is very upsetting, you will form an especially vivid memory of it. For example, many people remember where they were when they learned about President Kennedy's assassination, or about the attacks of September 11, 2001. The processing of emotionally-charged events in memory involves norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that is released in larger amounts when we are excited or tense. As Voltaire put it, that which touches the heart is engraved in the memory.

4) Location, light, sounds, short, the entire context in which the memorizing takes place is recorded along with the information being memorizes.

Our memory systems are thus contextual. Consequently, when you have trouble remembering a particular fact, you may be able to retrieve it by recollecting where you learned it or the book from which you learned it. Was there a picture on that page? Was the information toward the top of the page, or the bottom? Such items are called “recall indexes”. And because you always memorize the context along with the information that you are learning, by recalling this context you can very often, by a series of associations, recall the information itself.

Forgetting is another important aspect of memorization phenomena. Forgetting lets you get rid of the tremendous amount of information that you process every day but that your brain decides it will not need in future.

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