Is Memory a Cognitive Process? (6 Minute Read) | Iris Reading
Is Memory a Cognitive Process?

Is Memory a Cognitive Process? (6 Minute Read)

Is Memory a Cognitive Process?

Memory is an essential cognitive process involving the encoding, storing, and retrieving of information. 

You’ll want to have a photographic mind, won’t you? Virtually everyone wants the ability to recall things from memory with high precision. 

Mastering your memory and recalling what you took in (whenever you need to) will help you excel in whatever you do, whether you are a student, a teacher, a business person, etc.

One way to master your memory is to understand how it works. So, in this article, we’ll discuss the role of memory in cognition.

At the end of this article, you’ll understand how memory affects cognition, and you’ll be one step closer to mastering your memory so that you can recall things better and faster.

Let’s start the discussion with what cognition is!

What is cognition?

Cognition is the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through the senses, thought, and experience.

Cognition encompasses all aspects of intellectual functions, including attention, perception, taking in knowledge, memory, thought, understanding, reasoning, problem-solving, production of language, and more.

You can look at cognition as the mental processes governing how you take in and store information and how you process and use that information to guide your behavior and actions. So, cognition is essential for day-to-day functioning.

You use cognition for the following:

  • Perceive the world – the mental action of transforming what your senses capture (what you see, hear, smell, taste, and touch) into sensory signals that your brain understands and can later recognize and act upon.
  • Form impressions– the mental action of reducing sensory information into its fundamentals to make meaning of the information. 
  • Learn new things – the mental action of taking in new information and connecting it with what you already know to facilitate understanding. 
  • Form memories – the mental action of recording and storing information for later recall. 
  • Make decisions – the mental action of processing information (often involving comparing it or combining it with other information) to make a judgment.
  • Interact with the world – It has to do with how your mental processes (what goes on in your head) guide or influence your actions and behaviors, like how your perception, experience, or understanding of language will affect how you interact with your surrounding.

What is memory?

Memory is the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information. It is the faculty of the mind to retain information and later retrieve it to guide or influence action.

Human memory is so essential that any severe memory problem will affect our ability to function. For example, without retaining information and recalling it, we’ll be unable to develop personal identity or relationships. We’ll also be unable to communicate because the use of language is based on retaining and retrieving information.

Even minor memory problems affect our quality of life. For example, small memory losses can make you forget or misremember things, and these situations can cause minor annoyances or embarrassment.

Memory as a cognitive skill

Cognitive skills are the core skills that the brain uses to acquire, store, process, and retrieve information, while memory is concerned with storing and retrieving information. Thus, memory is an essential cognitive skill.

Types of memory

There are three broad types of memory as follows:

  • Sensory memory
  • Short-term memory
  • Long-term memory

Each of the three types of memory has distinct attributes, especially regarding whether you can consciously control it, how much information it can store, and how long it can store information.

Let’s dive deeper into the different types of memory!

Sensory Memory

Sensory memory is a brief memory that allows us to retain impressions of a vast amount of information received through the five senses.

At every point, our five senses bombard us with enormous information (what we see, hear, smell, feel, and taste). Remembering every detail of the immense amount of sensory information is impossible, so the information is briefly registered in the sensory memory.

Thus, the sensory information is not consciously controlled. As your senses receive stimuli, your brain creates a quick snapshot of the sensory information. Also, sensory memory is fleeting. It holds sensory information for only a few seconds (typically three seconds or less).

However, sensory memory is important in paying attention. It helps you retain impressions of a vast amount of information. Then by attending to this information, you can transfer it to short-term memory and later to long-term memory.

There are five types of sensory memory (from our five senses that provide stimuli):  

  • Iconic memory. It is also known as visual sensory memory. It is an impression your brain retains for an image you saw briefly. The iconic memory lasts for less than 0.5 seconds.
  • Echoic memory. It is also known as auditory sensory memory. It is an impression your brain retains for a sound you hear briefly. 
  • Haptic memory. It is also known as tactile memory. It is the impressions that your brain retains when you touch something briefly. It includes sensations like pressure, pain, etc. 
  • Olfactory memory. It is the impression your brain retains when you take in a smell briefly.
  • Gustatory memory. It is the fleeting impression that your brain momentarily captures when you taste something.

Short-term memory

Short-term memory allows you to take in and recall specific information for a brief period.

Short-term memory differs from sensory memory in three ways. First, short-term memory relates to taking in specific information, and not being bombarded by a vast amount of information.

Secondly, short-term memory allows conscious control of the information you take in and recall. For example, to recall a series of numbers, you can repeat it to yourself, allowing you to hold it in your short memory.

Lastly, information stays longer in short-term memory than in sensory memory.

Long-term memory

Long-term memory is the brain’s system for storing information for a long time. Unlike sensory memory, which lasts less than a second, and short-term memory, which lasts about a minute, there is no limit to how long information can stay in the long-term memory. 

Information can last in the long-term memory for days, weeks, years, or even decades.

When you talk of recalling information from memory, you are referring to long-term memory. 

Long-term memory often involves conscious effort – you actively try to recall information stored away in your memory. Long-term memory can also be unconscious – the information comes to you from your memory without any effort to recall it.

Thus, there are two broad types of long-term memory:

Explicit memory 

Explicit memory is also known as declarative memory or conscious memory. It is long-term memory that you consciously recall. For example, when you try to remember a friend’s birthday.

Explicit memory could either be semantic or episodic.

Semantic memory is when you intentionally try to recall certain facts, names, or knowledge. Like when you try to remember the names of your primary school teachers, or when you try to recall some information when taking a test. 

Episodic memory is when you intentionally try to recall an episode in your personal life. Like when you try to remember the first time you ate sushi.

Implicit memory 

Implicit memory is also called unconscious memory. It forms unconsciously, and it comes to you without any attempt to remember it. 

For example, even if it’s ten years since you last rode a bike, if you pick one up, you will remember how to ride it without having to actively recall the information.

An example of implicit memory is procedural memory. It is when you remember how to do things without actively trying to remember how.

How to improve memory as a cognitive function

Thankfully, you can take steps to improve your memory, allowing you to retain and recall information better. Some of these steps include:

  • Take care of your body
  • Exercise your mind
  • Use Mnemonic devices
  • Take memory courses

1. Take care of your body

Interestingly, there is a strong relationship between the body and the mind, such that if you take care of your body, you will have a sharper memory. Some ways to take care of your body for a better memory are: 

Get enough rest

Sleep helps improve memory in two distinct ways. First, sleep helps with memory consolidation. There are three phases of memory formation – acquisition, consolidation, and recall.

Studies show that sleep is critical in the second phase (consolidation). After taking in information, the neural connections that form our memories are strengthened when we sleep, helping to stabilize the memory.

Also, sleep deprivation affects attention, thereby affecting the encoding and storing of information. But when you get enough rest, you can pay attention, allowing optimal encoding and storage of information, and improving your memory. 

Eat healthily

You can eat certain food to keep your brain healthy and improve cognitive functions like attention and memory. These food are aptly called “brain food” and include:

  • Fatty fish. The brain uses healthy fats like omega-3 to build nerve cells essential to learning and memory. Fishes like salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Fruits. Avocados are rich sources of healthy fats, while blueberries have antioxidants that help improve communication between brain cells. 
  • Leafy greens. Green vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli have compounds that have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, leafy greens reduce inflammation of the brain and can significantly reduce memory loss. 

Hydrate properly

All brain functions, including memory, rely on electrical energy, and water is what provides this energy. Thus, staying hydrated by drinking enough water boosts brain power.

Exercise regularly

Exercising is not only good for your muscles and heart but also for your brain. Exercise increases airflow to the brain. It also increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes synaptic consolidation, making it easier to take in information and form memory.

2. Exercise your brain

Giving your brain a workout can also improve your memory. To exercise your brain, you can:

Play memory games

Playing memory games is an excellent way to exercise your brain. These games are specifically designed to keep the mind sharp and stimulated.

Learn something new

Another way to exercise the brain is to learn something new. Learning something new challenges your brain and leads to actual changes in the adult brain. It creates new neural connections, leading to better cognition.

Anything that takes you out of your comfort zone will suffice, but some good examples of a new thing that you can learn to improve your memory include:

  • A new language
  • A new skill (like coding)
  • Playing a musical instrument

Use an RSVP (Rapid Serial Visual Presentation) reader

Reading helps you remain mentally active. However, speed-reading using an RSVP tool challenges the brain even more. 

The RSVP readers help you read faster by flashing words at you at a set speed faster than your normal reading speed. These tools help increase your attention and equip you to absorb information more quickly.

One of the best RSVP readers you’ll find is AccelaReader. It allows you to set how fast you would like to read (words per minute), how many words you would want it to flash at a time, the text size, etc.

3. Use mnemonics devices

Mnemonic devices are aptly called memory devices. A mnemonic is any system that helps you remember something. They can be in the form of acronyms, songs, rhymes, etc.

Mnemonic devices help improve your memory because they allow you to associate what you want to remember with something easy for you to remember.

Two popular mnemonics are:

  • Acronym mnemonic. It involves forming a word using the first letters of the words you want to remember. An example is creating the word ROYGBIV using the first letters of the colors of the spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet).  
  • Music mnemonic. It involves forming a fun song using the information you want to remember. An example is the ABC song children use to learn the English alphabet.

4. Take memory courses

Experts in memory improvement design courses that help all categories of learners improve their memory.

You can use mnemonics and other strategies to improve your memory, but expert guidance via online courses will reduce the learning curve.

For example, in the How To Improve Your Memory workshop, the most trusted provider of memory training will teach you:

  • How your memory works
  • How to boost your short-term and long-term memory
  • How to memorize vital information more effectively

Wrapping Up

Memory is an essential cognitive process involving the encoding, storing, and retrieving of information. There are three types of memory – sensory memory (which is a fleeting capture of sensory information), short-term memory (which is information stored for a short period), and long-term memory (which is information stored for an extended period).

Interestingly, you can improve your memory and increase your ability to recall things. Some ways to do this include taking care of your body, exercising your mind, using mnemonic devices, and taking memory courses.

Talking of memory courses, Iris Reading has some of the best memory courses you’ll find. Our courses have helped millions improve their memory, ranging from students at Ivy League schools like Harvard and Stanford to executives at companies like NASA and Google.

Whether you are trying to remember technical concepts, to-do lists, or passwords, the Advanced Comprehension and Memory Course will provide you with the best available strategies for memory improvement.

Register for this memory improvement course today!

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