Memory: Discover the Missing Component of Recall

Memory is everything; without our memory we have nothing. We must have an ability to recall information in order to learn and develop. Today brain research has uncovered fascinating discoveries relating to memory, yet we have only just begun to understand this mystery of the mind.


Most researchers focus on the brain and how the different parts are related to memory. This understanding is very important if we are ever going to truly understand ourselves. I find neuroscience to be a fascinating subject that has helped shape my understanding of the human condition however I don't want to look at the brain in regards to memory.

I instead want to focus on the mind and how it utilizes information in regards to our memory. I want to share my theory on how the two different minds (conscious and subconscious) work together to provide us with the ability of recall.

Most people know about short and long-term memory; and how these two systems work together to give us the ability of recall. I believe there is a third type of memory that I call temporary memory that helps fill in the gap between short and long-term memory. I want to go over each of the three types, show you how they work, and explain how the two minds are related.

Before we can remember something we must first take in the information to be stored. Our DNA does contain some information but for this topic I will be focused on information we have obtained from outside sources; meaning our five senses.

Pivotal Resource Centre       Topic          MEMORY

Everything we experience in life is the result of information coming in through our five senses. Without these senses we would have no experience of the world or have any information to be processed into memory. This incoming information is first sent to the subconscious mind.

The reason the subconscious gets the information first is because it's the survival mind and is much faster at processing information. We need it this way to allow us to react to events that involve an immediate threat to us such as being attacked or touching a hot stove.

After the subconscious mind determines if any action is needed or not; it sends a small amount of the information to the conscious mind were it becomes what we call our conscious awareness. We are only aware of a small part of what is going on around us. This is why two people can have the same experience yet have two different views of what happened.

The thing to keep in mind is just because the information is not consciously known doesn't mean it's lost. This information is still sitting there inside your head just waiting to be used. At the same time this information is not yet a part of your long-term memory. All this incoming information is stored in what I call temporary memory and is controlled by the subconscious mind.

If information is stored in temporary memory; how do we get it to become long-term memory? My theory is the subconscious mind processes this information and converts it to long-term memory when we sleep, specifically REM sleep. To me this is one of the reasons we have dreams. Dreams are nothing more than us becoming consciously aware of temporary memory being converted to long-term memory.

One way the subconscious processes information to be converted to long-term memory is by using emotional "tags". This means if an event has caused us to feel a strong emotion it gets linked to that emotion. When this information is converted to long-term memory it is arranged in such a way as to be easy to recall. In other words the more emotion involved the more the memory will be put at the "front of the line" and information with no emotions will be move to the back. This makes it easier to recall emotional events which are important when it comes to survival. This is why the subconscious is in control of this system.

Just because the conscious mind does not have direct control over this information, it can access it through a process of requesting information from the subconscious. When the conscious mind requests information the subconscious first looks in this temporary memory because it is smaller, easier to process, and most likely to be more relevant. If it can't find it in temporary memory then it will expand the search to long-term memory which can take longer to find because of the massive size of long-term memory.

That's why you can be trying to think of something and then forget about it, but later the answer will just pop into your head for no reason. Your subconscious continues to search without any conscious awareness of what is going on.

The subconscious also uses the information in temporary memory to influence our decisions and actions. This influence is the basis of subliminal programing and can be very powerful if used correctly. Subliminal programing doesn't turn people into walking zombies but can have a real effect on a person's conscious thought process.

As you can see the subconscious mind is very involved with our memory by working with both temporary and long-term memory. The concept of using temporary memory to hold information before being converted to long-term memory is a wonderful system that allows us to utilize information as its being taken in. The problem is temporary memory is a fixed size and this causes problems.

Have you noticed how you get mentally tired if you don't get proper sleep? A lack of sleep causes the temporary memory to become full which can lead to issues with being able to recall the information we want. Sleep is so important in maintaining a strong memory.


Pivotal Resource Centre       Topic          SLEEP

Lack of sleep is not the only thing that can cause issues with temporary memory; there is also what environment we find ourselves in.

I skipped over one of the steps in how information is processed because I felt it was too early in the flow of this article. When the subconscious first receives information it looks for any copies of that information in our long-term memory. If it finds an exact copy it will simply reinforce the long-term memory instead of sending it to temporary memory.

This is why we have better recall of something if we can look at the information from different angels or give the information more details. These things cause more copies of the information to be put into temporary memory that will then be converted to long-term memory. If all we do is look at something one way we only reinforce a single long-term memory; and memory is all about the number of links we create. So how is our environment involved in memory?

When you are in an environment you are familiar with you take in more "copy" information because you already have knowledge about what is around you; which causes less information to be stored in your temporary memory. When you are in an unfamiliar environment your temporary memory will fill more rapidly causing you to become mentally fatigued. This is why you feel mentally tired when on vacation or when trying to learn something new.

The final piece of this memory puzzle is of course short-term memory. The conscious mind uses short-term memory to process information it receives. Because of the highly analytically nature of the conscious mind it can only keep track of a very small amount of information. Short-term memory is the only form of memory that is controlled by the conscious mind.

If all of this seems confusing or overwhelming let me offer you a metaphor on how all this works that will make it easier to understand.

Your mind is like an office. Information comes in and first goes to the inbox (temporary memory). From there some of the paper work gets move from the inbox to the desk top (short-term memory).

With any desk top there is very limited space so you must work on just a couple of things at a time. You can move papers back and forth from the desk top to the inbox but can only work with a few things at a time.

Just as with temporary memory an inbox can only hold so much before it becomes a disorganized mess. To keep the inbox from getting too full papers are moved to a filing cabinet (long-term memory). From time to time we do move papers from the filing cabinet to the desk top as we need them (consciously becoming aware of something from long-term memory). However it can be hard and time-consuming in finding just what we are looking for.

I hope this metaphor helps with understanding how the three parts of memory work together to give us this amazing ability of recall. Memory is still a mystery yet we are moving in the right direction.

ARTICLE AUTHOR:  Jeremy T. Jordan is a dynamic Speaker and Personal Life Coach that specializes in the areas of Success, Happiness, and Fulfillment. He is the founder of Why U Can Life Management; a personal development system designed to empower people with the knowledge and skills of self-mastery. For more information on Jeremy T. Jordan or the Why U Can Life Management System go to his website http://www.whyucanlifemanagement.com