What is human memory
Memory is one of the least investigated human abilities. Memory is the process of storing experiences in the brain and recalling them later. Many scientists believe that there are two levels of memory. One level is short-term memory, or working memory. The other level is long-term memory, or permanent memory. Short-term memory lasts about 15 to 30 seconds. Long-term memory can last days, months, years, or a lifetime.
Psychologists, philosophers, physicians and naturalists have been trying to penetrate this unexplored territory for centuries. Memory is a trace in the nerve substance of the brain. It is believed that nucleic and ribonucleic acids are involved in the process.
The volume of scientific information doubles every ten years. People need increasingly better memories even to keep abreast of scientific and technological progress. But our memories actually deteriorate as the years go by and the body tissues decay.
A German scientist, Professor Gliess, insists that a child’s memory must never be overtaxed. Intensive memory training, he claims, often ends up by ruining memory potential. He is against memorising long poems, lists of historical names and dates and mathematical formulas, which fill the child’s memory to capacity. “Synthetic memory” is always at our disposal in the form of reference books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. We have only to learn how to use them properly and we shall avoid the danger of overstraining the memory. Professor Gliess suggests that examiners should test, instead, the ability for creative and rational thinking. The use of reference books, dictionaries and tables should be allowed at examinations.
Many scientists, however, stick to the long-accepted view that the training of memory is much like the training of muscles, and that the more it is trained the more it will develop.
Scientists also think that there are different types of memory. These include motor-skill, factual, and emotional memory.
Being unable to remember things is called forgetting. It serves some important purposes: clears space for new information and helps people to survive painful experiences.
The ancient Greek philosopher Cicero once described memory as “the treasury and guardian of all things.”
During the Middle Ages, before the printing press, memory served as the vehicle through which history and knowledge were passed between people and generations.
Records of memory
– Alexander the Great was able to remember all the names of his soldiers. But there were about 30,000 people in his army.
– Mozart was able to play and record all the notes from the melody he heard only once.
– Winston Churchill knew by heart almost all the works by William Shakespeare.
– Bill Gates remembers hundreds of different programming language codes.
– Seneca was able to repeat 2000 unrelated words, heard only once.
– Archaeologist R. Schliemann could learn a foreign language in 6-8 weeks.
– The main character of the film Rain Man had a prototype – an American named Kim Peek. This person had a phenomenological memory, memorizing up to 98% of the information.
– South African politician Jan Christian Smuts learned 5,000 books by heart at an advanced age.
– American Barbara Moore played 1852 songs on the piano. Her concert lasted from October 25 to November 13, 1988!