Memory: properties, functions and types

The human brain is able to store information about the outside world, which helps the subject to adapt to rapidly changing living conditions. Thanks to the presence of memory, a person shapes his future.

What it is?

Human memory is arranged in such a way that traces of various facts and information are stored in it with the subsequent possibility of their restoration. The earthly path of the individual runs from the experienced past to the unknown future. The present is a continuation of the past and a point of intersection with future events. Memory serves as their link. It helps the individual to keep information in the head and reproduce the acquired experience in the future.

The general idea of ​​memory is that it is the main mental function and a special type of mental activity. Thanks to it, a person can recognize and reproduce traces of accumulated experience. The concept of memory is closely related to the individual psychological and age characteristics of the individual. Each person notices some ups and downs in their own intellectual level. Young people have a much better memory than older people.

Memorization is closely related to language. The child begins to remember himself from the moment he acquires the ability to describe events in phrases that contribute to memorization.

What happens?

Memory is a multifaceted concept. For example, there is mirror memory. There is an opinion among the people that the mirror has the property of remembering the objects reflected in it. For this reason, the mirror is considered a source of mysterious and mystical phenomena. It is no coincidence that it is hung when a loved one dies. Many superstitions and rituals are associated with the fear of the accumulation of information by a mirror surface.

Modern people are interested in the amount of memory of their own gadgets, tablet and desktop computers, various flash cards. Electronics can store a large amount of data. Scientists have calculated that the size of human memory is approximately a quadrillion bytes.

Performs a special function cognitive memory. Its repository has its own internal library of all knowledge acquired by a person. Individuals who have absolute memory, accurately reproduce what was once seen or heard. They remember without much difficulty voluminous texts, various tables, rows with a large number of numbers or words. Such people can thoroughly describe the events of any day of their lives.

Memory classification is based on:

  • memorization mechanism;
  • the shelf life of the received material;
  • physiological possibilities of accumulation of various information;
  • evaluating memory-related analyzers;
  • the form of acquiring information: what emotions, movements or abstract thoughts were involved at that moment.

Psychologists and physiologists, according to the method of memorization, distinguish voluntary and involuntary memory. According to the content and nature of manifestation — figurative, verbal, verbal-logical, emotional, motor, mechanical memory. By memory time short-term, long-term, intermediate, operational and sensory (instant) memory.

The process of memorization begins with the perception of information by the senses. At the initial stage of information receipt, receptors are involved. Works instantly sensory memory. It saves data even after the analyzers have been affected. Instantaneous memory is capable of accepting a huge amount of small details. After the initial fingerprint disappears, the information loses its availability, but can be replaced by new information.

Experts distinguish the following types of memorization at the sensory level.

  • iconic memory saves the data represented by the imprint from the organs of vision. It helps to capture visual information in a holistic form.
  • echoic memory processes the material perceived by the ear in the form of sound waves. Thanks to the sensory copy, sequentially arriving auditory information is integrated into a single image.
  • Tactile memory captures information obtained through peripheral skin receptors. It plays an important role in the implementation of motor function. All over the body there are sensitive receptors that send a signal to the brain about itching, pain, pressure on the skin.
  • Olfactory memory allows you to accurately determine the aroma of a substance or product. With its help, an individual distinguishes approximately 10 thousand different odors.

After processing at the sensory level, the material passes into the next subsystem — short-term memory. In the future, part of the processed and encoded material is moved to long-term storage.


The human brain remembers the necessary information, stores it in its archive, and, if necessary, retrieves it from there. The quality of memory depends on the age of the person, the regularity of mental activity, the genetic characteristics of the individual and the pathological changes that have occurred as a result of physical or mental trauma.

In terms of functional significance, memory has the following properties:

  • accuracy is determined by the correspondence of the received and reproduced information;
  • volume characterized by the amount of recorded information;
  • memorization speed determined by the efficiency of data processing and recording;
  • playback speed indicates the ability of brain structures to restore once stored information;
  • forgetting rate affects the process of loss of the received material.

These properties allow us to assess the degree of memory development and the existing disorders of brain activity. With poor memorization, a high rate of forgetting, reduced processes of processing and fixing data are observed.

The presence of a good memory is evidenced by high indicators of accuracy, volume and speed of memorization.


Memory plays a big role in human life, because it enables the individual to use the data of his experience. It is no coincidence that the physical theory is based on the creation and activation of neural models that allow the brain to perform its main functions: to remember, store, reproduce and forget the information of one’s own experience.

  • Memorization. In the process of memorization, traces of the introduced new information are imprinted in the brain structures. At this time, there is a perception of data, their experience, the mental construction of associative series, the establishment of semantic connections. The memorized material is reduced to a single whole.
  • Preservation. The accumulation of information in the archive of the brain includes the processing and assimilation of all material. The saved experience allows a person to learn in the future, improve the perception of the world, internal assessments, thinking and speech.
  • Playback. In the process of involuntary extraction of the necessary material from the depths of the brain, the image emerges in the mind of the individual without the application of certain efforts to this. With random playback, difficulties often arise. Sometimes it takes time to remember. Facts and events in the recovery process can be transformed and rebuilt. The reproduced data is not an exact copy of what was once sent to the brain’s storage.
  • Forgetting. The loss of the ability to reproduce previously received material may occur due to its insignificance. Partial forgetting is characterized by incomplete or erroneous recovery of information. With complete forgetting, the individual is unable to recognize and reproduce it.

Sometimes the inability to remember a particular event is associated with a traumatic brain injury, degenerative processes in the nervous system, or the onset of old age.

Theories of memory

The structure of memory, memorization mechanisms attract the attention of many researchers. Scientists from different countries of the world create various theories on the main qualities and types of memory. Researchers take into account that some people easily absorb a large amount of information and fix it for a long time in the structure of their brain, while others slowly remember and quickly forget the material.

There is a theory that between the ages of 15 and 25, hormonal changes occur in an individual, and the brain is formed. The formation of new neural connections leads a person to self-awareness. By this time, numerous information is accumulated, which are subsequently transformed into memories. For this reason, puberty is well remembered for the rest of your life.

In psychology, some important laws stand out.

  • For productive use of memory resources it is necessary to prepare for the perception of the material, to study the settings and settings. You need to carefully review all the information to be mastered.
  • Law of Impressions helps to secure the incoming material. Vivid events are remembered without much difficulty. Any person can easily and quickly recall an interesting episode that happened many years ago. An extravagant personality also remains in memory for a long time. To accumulate the necessary information, it is necessary to give it brightness and originality.
  • Law of Content Significance involves the distribution of all facts and information according to their need. Everything that is connected with personal attachments, hobbies, life values, own emotions, does not cause any problems when fixing the right moments in memory.
  • Law of Motivation implemented by motivating force. The desire to reach certain heights, to get a prize in a competition or competition gives a person a strong motivation to memorize a large amount of various information. It is no coincidence that school subjects are difficult to master, which, in the opinion of students, will not be useful to them in life.
  • Activity Law implies the performance of some action before the accumulation of the necessary information. Any performed calculations, comparisons, isolating the main ideas improve the process of memorization, so you need to deliberately get involved in the work on the necessary information, perform some actions with them.
  • Reliance on previously acquired experience is embedded in the law of prior knowledge. New concepts are easily assimilated on the basis of familiar material. To do this, it is necessary to analyze and systematize information, draw appropriate parallels.
  • The law of mutual influence of traces of memory is based on the organization of memorization through the alternation of mental activity and the use of short pauses, during which the necessary information is fixed in the head.

There is no unified theory of memory. For example, the semantic theory of memory is based on the fact that the process of memorization is directly dependent on the presence or absence of semantic connections that contribute to the semantic perception of the information being studied. Some semantic connections included in the context help to consolidate and reproduce the necessary material.

Representatives of various sciences address the problems of memory. Psychologists and physiologists have managed to penetrate into the very depths of the human brain. Their theories greatly expand the knowledge of human memory.


In psychology, there are various theoretical directions: associative, Gestalt psychological, behavioral and active theories of memory.

  • In one of the earliest theories, association is central to memory. When a new concept enters the human brain, already familiar images emerge, and an associative connection is established between them. When this element is re-perceived, a representation of all the details appears in the mind.
  • Gestalt theory involves the performance of certain tasks by the subjects. Working on them, the person is interested in bringing them to their logical conclusion. Tasks are designed for data restructuring. A person has to separate or combine them through rhythmization or symmetrization. Well organized, structured material is easy to remember.
  • behavioral theory aimed at reinforcing the studied material. In theory, much attention is paid to the study of the work of memory during learning. It is believed that the performance of reinforcing exercises has a positive and negative impact on further learning. When compiling tasks, the amount of information, the measure of similarity, the degree of learning, age and individual characteristics of students are taken into account.
  • The most popular theory in which the activity of the individual is considered as a factor that forms, in addition to other mental processes, memory.

The effectiveness of memorization depends on the significance of information in the activity of the individual.


Such theories are inextricably linked with the teachings of IP Pavlov. They are based on the features of higher nervous activity. According to such theoretical studies, the act itself constitutes a conditioned reflex as a process of the emergence of a connection between the acquired and already assimilated material. The concept of fixing in this case is due to this process. The individual achieves the immediate goal through reinforcing actions.

Significance for human life

Forgetting previous experience, a person would not be able to improve. Memory is important for ensuring the full functioning of the subject and its development. It is a kind of tool with which the individual accumulates the necessary information and uses it in his later life. Thanks to memorization, human consciousness is not limited to sensations and perceptions. It is filled with acquired knowledge. Without the presence of memory, human thinking would be limited to the material obtained as a result of direct perception.

How can it be improved?

The brain is plastic, so it can be improved. The effectiveness of memorization directly depends on the ability to concentrate. Individuals are sometimes quite good at concentrating while perceiving new information. Solve crosswords and puzzles, solve problems, play chess, study foreign languages, read fiction, memorize poems and songs, repeat learned material, remember the events of the past day.

Walking in the fresh air, good nutrition, good sleep, lack of stress and negative emotions, physical exercises, and a mobile lifestyle contribute to memory improvement. The text is well remembered, supported by a certain musical rhythm or a cheerful melody. Apply imaginative thinking. Images linger in the head much longer than words.

It is advisable to mentally represent objects in an exaggerated and even caricature form. Effective preservation of information occurs with increased concentration of attention and the creation of associative series. Incoming information must be encoded. Chains of personal associations should be associated with vivid images and emotions.

Lay visual routes and attach information necessary for memorization to objects. It is best to attach concepts to objects encountered on the way home or in your own room. If you need to restore certain words in your mind, you should come up with a story in which all of them will be involved.

Memory can be developed through various exercises.

  • Look at the animal picture for one minute. Then write them down in alphabetical order without peeking.
  • Look at any picture for 2 seconds, then close your eyes and mentally imagine the image, try to reproduce it in your head. Open your eyes and look at the picture again, evaluate your ability to memorize.
  • Scatter a few matches randomly. Record their location in memory. At the other end of the table, without peeking, arrange the same number of matches in the same order.

Interesting Facts

The human brain differs from a computer in energy dependence. According to scientists, after brain death, all information accumulated throughout life is lost within 6 minutes. Computer storage of data may not depend on the availability of energy.

It is very difficult to accurately measure the amount of long-term human memory. According to scientists, it can reach a quadrillion bytes. Short-term memory is calculated by the number of objects held by a person in the head. Computer memory is measured in gigabytes and terabytes.

The file system allows you to know exactly the volume and content of the stored information. No person can reliably know what is stored in his memory. Computer technology reproduces information accurately. The human brain is not capable of storing it in finished form. The next reproduction of the same material may have differences in details.

If a person can’t remember something in any way, you need to pick up a pencil and start drawing. A schematic representation helps to extract the necessary information from the depths of brain structures. For example, you can’t remember how many paintings are on the wall in your living room. Drawing stimulates creative thinking.

The problem is solved by the fact that the schematic drawing draws your attention to some features that you accidentally missed.

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