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What is Short-Term Memory and How to Improve It

Information that is perceived through any of our senses is initially stored in short-term memory. Inability to retain information in short term memory is what is typically referred to as short term memory loss.

Under normal conditions, this information is current, active, and readily available to us, but - here is the catch - it is only available for a "short" period of time (hence the name, of course).

But how short is short, really?

Well, research says that it could actually be as short as a fraction of a second! Now, that cannot be very helpful, you may be thinking.

The trick is - we can retain the information longer than that, may be up to a few seconds, or even for the few minutes it could take us to use that information, by following some of the same memory techniques we use to eventually send it into our long term memory as needed.

How much information can be retained at a time in short term memory?

Experts say, an average of about 7 pieces of unrelated information at a time. If we try to remember more than that, chances are, we will forget something else in those "list of items", more likely something towards the middle of the list.

What happens to the information after its duration in the short term memory?

One of the two things: Either we have successfully pushed it into our treasure trove of long term memory, to be retrieved and recalled later, as needed.

Or it is just gone, most likely forever, to make way for the next sensory perception, or for any information freshly retrieved from our long term memory.

Why is retaining information in short-term memory important, even if it is just for a few seconds longer?

Because, just those few additional seconds or minutes make the difference between an average memory and a great one.

Imagine you were introduced to someone, and you forget their name in two seconds, even while you are speaking with them! Or you travel up a flight of stairs and forget why you bothered to do it in the first place!

Such lapses not only make life a bit inconvenient to say the least, but we may also run the risk of being labeled as absent-minded!

Research suggests that the difference of few seconds or minutes also has an impact on academic performance or career success.

People with poor short term memory find it hard to process information, focus attention, follow directions, or solve problems. Some experts believe that short term memory provides a greater correlation to academic or career success than even intelligence.

How do we retain the information in short-term memory, for a little longer duration?

Here are few ideas:

  • Studies indicate that by paying attention to that information for about 8 uninterrupted seconds, we hold it in the short term memory for a few seconds longer.
  • And by repeating the information over and over again, we can hold it even longer, for as long as we need to use it. An example could be remembering the phone number you just heard, until you dial the number and start the conversation.
  • Association and Visualization memory techniques can also be used to retain the information for a little longer in the short term memory.

The above memory techniques also increase the probability of that information entering the permanent storage in our long term memory.

If you suspect you are being a bit more forgetful than you should be, and have no health or memory issues otherwise, you can try natural remedies like Brain Tonic to relieve your forgetfulness and increase your alertness. If your forgetfulness is age-related, herbal remedies like MemoRise could be a better choice.

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