Short-term memory: what is it and how to improve it?

Poets dedicate verses to memory — the basis of human consciousness. Without it, people will not be able to live and will simply turn into some creatures that will not have intelligence. One who has a good memory will never be lost in life. He will always find a good job and will be able to easily move up the career ladder. If a person has a well-developed perception, then it is easier for him to transfer the necessary information for long-term storage in his brain.

Let’s figure out what short-term memory is and why it needs to be improved.

What it is?

Need to know what exists short and long term memory. Both concepts are very important for the intellectual level. In psychology, it is customary to use a short designation of short-term memory — CMP. It is a certain component of human memory, information for which is transmitted from tactile perception only when awareness of the actions of tactility passes. It is also launched from long-term memory with the assistance of the necessary elements of non-special memories. This combination allows you to save a little information that is immediately used by a person. Therefore, such memory is also called primary or active.

Let’s take a look at how short-term memory works.

The processes of fast processing of memories are controlled by consciousness not to the full extent, but partially. Therefore, information can linger in the mind of a person for only 20 seconds. And after 30 seconds, information from short-term memory almost disappears.

It is generally accepted that the KVP capacity is only 4-5 objects. When the intelligence is connected to the process, the information content becomes more significant. For example, natural landscapes or paintings (photographs), mental models (various tables) can become objects of human memory in this case.

If such data is placed in short-term memory, then it becomes distinct to one degree or another and has different sizes. It all depends on how developed this memory is.

It should be borne in mind that the amount of memory of this type can be increased with the help of mnemonic and mental processes. They will unite into a single complex, and the memory can work with a vengeance.

General characteristics

Different people have short-term (mechanical) memory developed in different ways. It can work without the thought process. If the amount of memory is limited, then a natural replacement process occurs: when a person receives new information, the old one is immediately erased in his brain.

KVP is a kind of information orderly. Information is processed, and then unnecessary is eliminated. «Overflow» of memory as a whole is not automatically allowed, long-term memory does not suffer. It turns out that without KVP, the long-term one will not be able to work reliably. Only the information that was originally processed by the brain in short-term memory gets into long-term memory.

For short-term memory to work well, it must be kept active. It is worth doing exercises that will be aimed at developing short-term memory. To improve memory, you need to direct your attention to remembering a certain picture or various data. You can not be distracted by other objects.

The properties of short-term memory are directly proportional to human activity. Goals and motives of behavior are also superimposed on it. If a person is forced to constantly perform the same manipulations that cause torment, or he is constantly affected by an unpleasant stimulus, this does not mean that all these undesirable events will be deposited in the long-term memory of the individual. On the contrary, meaningless information (irritant) will be eliminated due to the fact that inhibition can turn on in the mind. Then the translation of negative information into long-term memory will not occur.

KVP and DVP work completely independently of each other. This is especially evident when the individual suffers from retrograde amnesia. In this case, the unpleasant events that happened to him are completely crossed out, and events from the distant past remain in the mind.

If an individual suffers from anterograde amnesia, then both directions are preserved in his mind — long-term and short-term memory. Nevertheless, in this case, the input of new information into the DWT becomes impossible. Although both directions of memory work like clockwork.

Consider the main characteristics of short-term memory.


This parameter takes into account the optimal amount of data stored in the head. This parameter is determined only for an adult. It is generally accepted that The optimal amount of short-term memory has an average value of 7 elements. However, some fluctuations up or down in the form of two elements can also occur.

Of course, it is better to have an average or high score. This would indicate a fairly good short-term memory. When the indicator drops below 5 elements, violations occur that need to be corrected through treatment.

D. Miller made a discovery, explaining that as learning progresses, the above elements are able to combine into blocks. Many people process two blocks of information at once. For example, a driver can drive a car and talk to a fellow traveler at the same time.


As mentioned above, short-term memory is needed in order to separate the necessary information from the unnecessary, and then delete the latter. Unnecessary information surrounds us everywhere, and if it is fully assimilated by consciousness, then a person will lose orientation in the environment. For example, if an individual perceives and remembers extraneous sounds and pictures for a long time, then the basic information will simply go nowhere.

During the lecture, the student listens attentively to the lecturer and memorizes only the educational material. And extraneous things in the form of a car horn or the color of a lecturer’s clothes are automatically eliminated in his mind.

But the information that enters the brain during sleep becomes long-term. It doesn’t matter if they make sense or not.

Translation into long-term memory

The hippocampus is the base where one of the main memory centers is located. Keep in mind that memory itself is different. The hippocampus is activated when a person needs to memorize a certain path on a route diagram or determine the location of the necessary objects.

And yet in the hippocampus, information does not remain for a long time, since this part is considered short-term storage. This is just a transition from short-term memory to long-term memory. This is how knowledge moves from the hippocampus to other areas of the head. In order for this process to be successful, a person must fall into sleep: only the process of sleep can give off electric waves during slow falling asleep, without which the previously received information will simply disappear.

The hippocampus does not retain memories of events that occurred in the individual’s personal life. Such memories move quickly to the perirhinal cortex. And here is the transformation of short-term memory into long-term.

There is only one conclusion — the hippocampus is needed for the consolidation of memory. It works when the person is sleeping. That is why some people may read a poem several times before going to bed, and retell it by heart the next morning.

And you also need to take into account that long-term memory directly depends on KVP. For example, if short-term memory fails to remember and retain information properly, then LTP will directly suffer from this. Therefore, different people reproduce the same events in their memories in different ways. It’s just that some people can remember information well, while others can’t.


As we already know, in everyday life, when people do not set a direct task to remember something, their short-term memory works. The image is kept for about 30 seconds, and then erased. But then, when an individual tries to remember any information or a picture (and be sure to keep this information in his head), he uses such a memory property as memorization. It is memorization that includes three stages, let’s consider them.

The first part is coding. How it works? First, a person focuses on the image. At the moment, he completely ignores everything superfluous that surrounds him at the time of encoding.

Let’s take an example. You need to memorize the periodic table. You are memorizing without looking at what is going on around you. Therefore, when you try to reproduce the numbers from the table, you can easily do it. However, at the same time, you will not remember how a car honked under your windows at that time.

It must be borne in mind that each person is individual, therefore, information is encoded in all people in different ways.

  • Through visual perception. When this happens, you just see the picture in all its details and remember it, as if taking a photograph. But eidetic memory is unusual for many people. By the way, it is also called photographic. Usually highly intelligent people have such a memory.
  • By acoustic perception. This perception is also called phonological. It works simply. When a person tries to remember something, he simply repeats the information aloud.

Short-term memory includes two compartments. Experts call them repositories. Each store belongs to a different brain structure. One compartment is considered acoustic and is located in the left hemisphere. It stores the baggage of knowledge that was obtained through hearing. The other compartment is considered visuo-spatial and is located in the right hemisphere. It contains the knowledge that was obtained with the help of vision.

Long-term memory contributes to the manifestation of the second part — this data storage. As we already understand, long-term memory can contain pictures from the past, memories of childhood, adolescence, any events, and much more. And such storage of information has no boundaries, unlike short-term memory.

And the third part is reproduction. Short-term memories at first glance come to mind much more easily than long-term ones. Long-term memories must first be found and brought out, that is, to start brain activity. This takes time. And short-term ones involve memorizing 7 elements.

If you need to find a specific house number, which consists of three digits, then you can remember them pretty quickly.


It is important to know that short-term memory is divided into types by duration of storage — there is:

  • instant memory, when information is destroyed after 20-30 seconds;
  • operational, when you need to save information while a decision is being made.

Short-term memory has several types. And how a person remembers any information depends on these types.

For example, an individual with a short-term speech memory will remember data from lectures better. And a person with a visual memory will learn a lesson better if he writes off the board.

So, let’s look at these types in more detail.


This memory is also called auditory. In this case, the perception of information is acquired through the hearing aid. When a person hears something, he simply remembers it. You can remember well only when the information is also spoken aloud. And if this is not done, then it will be erased within 30 seconds.


In this case, a person perceives data from the outside with the help of vision and remembers the picture. When he needs to translate information from short-term memory into long-term memory, he often uses speech coding. This is called the association method, which is very helpful in remembering images.


Tactility translates as «touch». This means that a person can remember something through touch. And not everyone can have such qualities.

Methodology for determining the volume of KVP

To do this, you can use the test. After its application, the amount of short-term memory is determined. In this case, the subject must memorize the numbers for 20 seconds and try to recreate them from memory. The numbers are written down by the examinee on paper. So here are the numbers to remember:

  • 15, 39, 87, 23;
  • 94, 65, 79, 46;
  • 83, 19, 84, 52.

If you memorize and write down 10 numbers, then you have an ideal memory. The average level is characterized by 7 units.


Memory problems worsen the quality of life. Their reasons:

  • deterioration of health, vitamin deficiency, overwork, poor ecology;
  • passion for bad habits;
  • violation of the blood circulation of the brain;
  • various pathologies of the brain;
  • trauma;
  • diseases associated with the psyche;
  • Alzheimer’s disease;
  • mental retardation.

When memory deteriorates, you can observe the following symptoms:

  • when a person suddenly begins to remember and reproduce many events with abnormal speed — this is hypermnesia;
  • the individual completely forgets the events that occurred in a certain period — this is amnesia;
  • when a person’s memory is partially reduced, this is hypomnesia.

General symptoms of memory impairment:

  • forgetfulness or confusion;
  • social maladaptation and inability to reproduce events;
  • autism, confusion, problems with the nervous system.

How to improve?

Memory can be developed through a series of exercises.

  • Ask your friend to write 20 words on a piece of paper. Memorize them for 1 minute. Then write down what you remember on a piece of paper. The more words, the better the memory. If it doesn’t work out well, then you need to train your memory and constantly repeat the exercise (just write new words each time).
  • Try to write a series of numbers on a piece of paper so that each successive digit is the sum of the previous digits. For example: 2+1=3, 3+2=5, 5+3=8 and so on.
  • One more workout. You need to involuntarily open the book on any page and read 1 paragraph. Then try to retell the text in as much detail as possible.
  • Put 10 colorful objects on the table and memorize their location, color, shape for 1 minute. Then cover the objects with a cloth and tell everything in detail about the objects you saw.

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