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Encoding Information – Memory (PSY)

by Tarry Ahuja, MD
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    00:01 Okay. So let’s talk about encoding memories.

    00:04 Now, the process of encoding information is fairly complicated and we do it fairly automatically.

    00:11 Well, we’re going to walk through all the different steps that are involved with that.

    00:15 So encoding is a process of transferring sensory information into a construct and then storing that into our memory system.

    00:21 So we’re making this sound really complicated, but basically what we’re saying here is we get information from the environment around us, we turn that into a construct or some way to store that, and then we put it into our memory system.

    00:33 So think of it as a, you know, we all relate to computers these days.

    00:36 Everybody is on their computer, you’re on one right now, probably.

    00:39 And so when you have a file, that’s information that you’ve taken.

    00:43 And you’ve put it into a file and you have to save that file.

    00:46 So we’ll try and kind of relate back and forth to a computer very often because I think it makes sense for us to understand that way.

    00:52 Now, so we take that information, that sensory information, we form a construct, and then we store it in our memory.

    00:59 So that would be working memory.

    01:02 Now, working memory stores information for immediate use as part of a mental activity.

    01:06 So when we’re actually doing a task, we’re learning for the first time, or you’re trying to grasp something and I’m just teaching you right now as we speak.

    01:14 That’s going and it’s sitting in a place called working memory that allows us to do what we need to do.

    01:19 And then, it’s going to go -- it’s going to go somewhere else after that and depending where it goes depends on what we’re going to do with it.

    01:26 So we’ll talk about that in a sec.

    01:28 So working memory can include things like the phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad, the central executive, and episodic buffer.

    01:35 So phonological loop is, if I ask you to remember, you know, the numbers 8, 14, 36, and 22.

    01:43 So you’re going to say 8, 14 -- and you just say it in your mind over and over.

    01:47 So phonological is referring to you verbalizing it sort of whether it’s internal verbalization or you actually say it and you say it over and over and over and over and over.

    01:54 That’s how you remember phone numbers, people’s addresses, even names.

    01:58 It’s just, you know, "his name is Terry, his name is Terry, his name is Terry," and then when you go to meet them, “Oh, hi. How are you, Terry,” and you speak as you remember -- trying to remember their name.

    02:08 A visuospatial sketchpad is you, in your mind, kind of drafting out something.

    02:13 So you’re like, “Oh, yeah, the table -- the chair was rounded like this and it had the four legs. Got it,” and you have that drawing in your mind.

    02:21 Now, this allows for manipulation and organization of the information within the working memory, also allows you to achieve whatever task you’re trying to do, and then eventually it’s going to go to a place where we can store it, which is short-term memory.

    02:33 That can then go on to long-term memory later on if we so desire.

    02:39 Now, we’re going to talk about some of the different things that we notice when we’re encoding and recalling information.

    02:46 The first phenomenon is something called the serial position effect.

    02:49 That’s the tendency to recall the first and last items in a series or a list better than the middle.

    02:54 So if I gave you ten different animals to remember, chances are you’re going to remember the first few, so, lion, tiger, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, zebra, giraffe.

    03:05 You’re going to remember the first two and you’re going to forget the blah, blah part and you’re also going to usually remember the last ones.

    03:12 So why is that? Why does that happen? So it’s called the primacy effect, which is a cognitive bias that results in a subject recalling the first items on a list.

    03:21 That’s the first phenomenon.

    03:22 And the theory is because those are the items that you’ve had the most time to sort of process and encode and some of them may have already been transferred to some form of memory, whether it’s long-term, or the working, or short.

    03:34 It’s now transitioned into being in your mind and it’s been there the longest.

    03:39 So, the ones in the middle really haven’t gone into that point yet.

    03:41 They might still be stuck in the phonological loop or in the area where it’s not really fully set yet.

    03:47 And then the recency effect is the stuff that we’re remembering on the end.

    03:51 The theory there is these items are still in the loop or are fresh in the loop so are highly accessible.

    03:57 So things that go in the phonological loop or the sketchpad we all know don’t last forever.

    04:01 So if ask you to remember ten numbers or ten animals, for the first little bit you’re pretty good. “Yeah, I got them all, I got them all.” You wait a few minutes and everything that was in that phonological loop is gone, except for maybe the first few and the last few.

    04:14 So that we say what happens to recall if you wait? And again, the stuff in the middle is the first to go and you can start to remember -- you can still sometimes remember the earlier -- earlier points on that list and the last points, so, the primacy and the recency Now, what are the things that you can do to help yourself remember, right? So we have things called mnemonics.

    04:35 So the M here is silent.

    04:37 Mnemonic is a technique for improving retention and retrieval from memory.

    04:41 So there are a lot of different things you can do.

    04:43 The most obvious that is innate that I think we just do automatically is rehearsal.

    04:48 So that’s the use of phonological loop, you say things over and over and over and over and over.

    04:52 You know, you meet a cute guy and you try to remember his name and you’re like, “I don’t want to forget it” or you don’t want to forget his phone number or his email address and you say it over and over and over and over.

    05:01 Now, another thing that is unique is something called chunking.

    05:05 That’s a strategy which organizes information into discrete groups of data.

    05:09 So you might have a list and so you’re trying to say, “Well, why don’t I chunk those into -- these are all the birds and in the birds I know there’s a list of four things and then there is also types of wild cats and there’s also, you know, different types of fish.” And so now by categorizing them or chunking them into pieces, it makes a little bit easier to remember.

    05:33 And when we get back to the phonological loop, the recall we now realize is roughly around seven digits, so if your number is beyond seven, you have to start chunking it and you’ll remember this in the way you actually recite it.

    05:47 So say your phone -- you know, your phone number is -- got ten digits and you have a 613-731-1414.

    06:00 So now the actual numbers would be longer than you can keep in your phonological loop.

    06:05 So what did I just do even how I was reciting, it was I chunked them.

    06:08 You go three, you know, three, three and four.

    06:11 So you can say, “Six-one-three,” and you remember that as a chunk and you can say “Seven-three-one, fourteen, fourteen.” And how am I saying that? I’m not saying, “One-four, one-four.” I’m saying, “Fourteen, fourteen,” because I’ve chunked them into different groups.

    06:25 So that makes it a little bit more manageable, makes it easier for you to encode that memory.

    06:30 Now, hierarchies are things that organizes words and information into categories just like I said with the types of birds, types of cats, and that makes it a little bit easier because now you’re recalling that category, and then within the category you can have your stuff, as opposed to saying, “Animals,” which is everything.

    06:48 Now, the depth of perception, so, the deeper level, semantic content leads to better recall, so, the more that you can associate with in terms of how you’ve processed that information.

    06:58 So you know, you’ve heard people say, “Well, really focus, you’ll remember better.” There’s some actual truth to that.

    07:03 So really paying attention to what you’re doing at that moment and even adding semantic content, so, things like, “Oh, yeah, on that Wednesday, it was five o’clock and it was sunny.

    07:15 Do you remember? You -- that -- that girl’s name?” “Oh, yeah, her name is Rebecca. That’s right,” because you’ve added all that semantic content and that really helped.

    07:23 Acronym is another great one.

    07:25 So, you know, we use these all the day, AIDS, CD-ROM, FAQs for those frequently asked questions, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

    07:33 Geez, you’re studying for the MCAT, so it’s all about abbreviations in science, neuroscience, biology. All you have is abbreviations.

    07:42 So acronyms are ways to help you remember.

    07:44 I think the only downfall is sometimes we forget what the acronym originally stood for, but it does make it easier.

    07:51 Now, we have the dual coding hypothesis, and this indicates that it’s easier to remember words with associated images than if either -- either alone.

    08:01 So if you have just the word “banana,” you remember that word banana if you can, and then if you were to compare that to me showing you an image of the banana and then saying the word “banana,” you will recall that much more.

    08:13 And the reason being is that you’ve made more connections into the memory and there’s more content, and so it’s deeper.

    08:19 That’s what we meant by deeper content, is there’s more there for me to kind of hang my hat on.

    08:23 Oh, yeah, I see it. Visually, I see it. I remember it. I see the word.

    08:27 I’ve made that group association.

    08:29 There’s a lot of ways to slice that, but now I’ve layered it a lot more into my memory versus just the word “banana.” There’s another thing called method of loci or loci, depending on how you like to pronounce it, and this involves imagining moving through a familiar place or having stops or loci or loci.

    08:46 So, say for example you are trying to remember your route home from a hotel to a sporting event when you’re in a weird city that you don’t know the area very well.

    08:58 So as you’re walking from your hotel to the sporting event, you walk by and you say, “Oh, yeah, there’s that cute store with the shoes. Okay,” and you keep going and say, “Oh, look at that really neat looking tree.” Then you keep going and you say, “Oh, look at that dog with three legs,” and then you get to the sporting event, you enjoy yourself, and now you’re going to walk your way back.

    09:14 And so, you go back looking at some of those things that you picked out -- the physical locations or the loci and you say, “Oh, yeah, there’s that -- there’s that weird dog with the three legs and there’s that really cool shop.” And so you know that you’re kind of remembering things.

    09:29 So this again provides a deeper representation and it’s also known as the journey method.

    09:33 Now, if we’re not talking about actual physical mapping yourself and you’re trying to learn things, you can still do this the same way if you’re trying to encode memories.

    09:40 And you may, again, have heard this technique before where you can say if you’re trying to remember five things on a list.

    09:45 For each thing, tie it to something that means something to you.

    09:49 if you’re doing a list of animals, you know, and the first on the list is cat.

    09:53 So you know cat. “Okay, I have a cat and the cat’s name is Mittens.” Okay, next. The next animal is snake.

    09:58 “Oh, I hate snakes. I got bitten by a snake once. Remember that? Yeah.” Next, monkey. “Oh, remember that time I fed the monkey and the monkey got sick and threw up? Oh, yeah.” And in your mind you’re doing this and you’re creating a journey based on things that means something to you.

    10:12 Now, recall, you can go back and say, “Okay, I talked about, yeah, I remember the monkey. There’s a monkey on the list.

    10:16 I hate snakes, I have a cat.” And so you’re able to, again, add those tags, make it a deeper representation, and your recall will be much better.

    10:27 Self-reference effect involves making new info personally relevant.

    10:32 And same thing, you can talk about anything.

    10:36 “What’s the name of the street? Beatrice. Wait, hey, I have an aunt named Beatrice,” or so on and so on.

    10:43 You relate whatever it is you’re trying to remember to something that’s personally driven and has some personal context to yourself.


    About the Lecture

    The lecture Encoding Information – Memory (PSY) by Tarry Ahuja, MD is from the course Making Sense of the Environment.


    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Serial position effect
    2. Visuospatial effect
    3. Phonological loop
    4. Short term memory
    5. Episodic buffer
    1. Chunking
    2. Acronym
    3. Depth of processing
    4. Mnemonics
    5. Hierarchies
    1. Mnemonics
    2. Phonological loop
    3. Visuospatial skechpad
    4. Episodic buffer
    5. Central executive
    1. Cognitive bias
    2. Statistical bias
    3. Placement bias
    4. Inherent bias
    5. Academic bias
    1. Visuospatial loop
    2. Chunking
    3. Phonological loop
    4. Mnemonic
    5. Hierarchy effect
    1. It is based on dual coding hypothesis.
    2. It uses physical locations or loci.
    3. It is also called the "Journey method."
    4. It has deeper representation.
    5. It involves visualization.

    Author of lecture Encoding Information – Memory (PSY)

     Tarry Ahuja, MD

    Tarry Ahuja, MD


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