Memory Processes: a set of distinct psychological functions that operate with different “representations,” and physiological mechanisms to retain information over time. (Koch, 340) Includes stages of memory formation (“encoding”), "consolidation," and “retrieval.”  (Blumenfeld, 829) The process is designed so that only things that are meaningful, enjoyable, or important are remembered. (Memory and Mind, Eric Kandel) Ongoing studies are helping scientists identify how different areas of the brain work together to enhance memory formation and storage. (BrainFacts, Learning and Memory)


Encoding: getting information into the brain. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 51) Storing knowledge in memory in an organized, meaningful fashion. (Schunk, 36) Translation of physical, modal information into internal, cognitive representations. (Najjar, 4) Processing of physical “sensory input” into memory. During memory encoding, information can be processed about “space,” “time,” and “frequency” through either automatic or effortful processing. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 261) Under normal circumstances, memories of daily events are consolidated by the “hippocampus.” But during frightening situations - such as a car accident or a robbery - the “amygdala” also lays down memories along an independent, secondary memory track. In other words, there is more than one way to lay down memory. (The result is) multiple memories of the same event. (Eagleman, 126) The great secret of memory is that it mostly encodes the relationships between things more than the details of the things themselves… When you memorize a “melody,” you encode the relationships between the “notes,” not the notes per se, which is why you can easily sing the song in a different key. (Discover, Aug07, 56) Verbs - ‘encode’ and 'code.' Also referred to as ‘coding’ and ‘laying down memory.’

Elaborative Encoding: an encoding process that enriches a “stimulus,” therefore making it easier to “store” and “retrieve” the stimulus. Presenting information via “multimedia,” such as showing the word 'cat' with a drawing of a cat, may encourage learners to perform more elaborative processing on the information. (Najjar, 4) The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory. (Medina, 110) The more personal an example, the more richly it becomes encoded and the more readily it is remembered. (Medina, 115) Editor’s note - facilitating elaborative encoding may lie at the intersection of art and science for a “teacher.”

Encoding Failure: failure to store sufficient information to form a useful memory. (Coon, 313) The inability to recall specific information because of insufficient encoding of the information for storage in long-term memory. (Hockenbury, 234)

Encoding Specificity Principle: the principle that when the conditions of 'information retrieval' are similar to the conditions of 'information encoding,' retrieval is more likely to be successful. The more closely “retrieval cues” match the original learning conditions, the more likely it is that retrieval will occur. Examples include the “context effect” and “mood congruence.” (Hockenbury, 231)

Frequency Coding: the information that nerve impulses carry is represented by the number of impulses generated per unit of time. (The Brain, 24)

Hebbian Link: a memory link in your brain. For example, between a motor command to clinch your fist and a sensation of nails digging into your palm. (Ramachandran, 54)

Priming: prepare or equip, especially with information, for a particular purpose, or to perform a specific task. (Oxford) Using a stimulus to sensitize the nervous system to a later presentation of the same or a similar stimulus. (Kolb, 490) Exposure to a (sensory input) causes immediate and measurable changes in the ease with which many related (inputs) can be evoked. (For example) if you have recently seen or heard the word ‘eat’ you are temporarily more likely to complete the word fragment ‘so_p’ as ‘soup’ than as ‘soap.’ Not restricted to concepts or words. Actions and emotions can be primed by events of which one is not even aware. (Kahneman, 52) A new word is more likely to be recognized as familiar if it is unconsciously primed. (Kahneman, 61) Typically observed only under carefully controlled experimental conditions. Unlike other forms of cognitive memory, it is (“unconscious”). (Tulving, 1) Verb - 'prime.' Also referred to as 'priming effect.'

Ideomotor Effect: influencing of an action by an idea. (Includes for example) the ’Florida effect’ which involves two states of priming. First, a set of words (shown to subjects) primes thoughts of old age. Second, these thoughts prime a behavior (walking slowly) which is associated with old age. All this happens without any awareness. (Kahneman, 53)

Lady Macbeth Effect: feeling that 'one’s soul is stained’ (for example, by shame or malevolent thoughts) appears to trigger a desire to cleanse one’s body. (Kahneman, 56)

Money Priming: reminders of money, including a phrase that had a money theme, the presence of a money-related object in the background, or a money-themed computer background or screen saver. The idea of money primes individualism: a reluctance to be involved with others, to depend on others, or to accept demands from others. Money-primed people (in an experiment) were much less willing to spend time helping another. (They) showed a greater preference for being alone. (Kahneman, 55-56)

Repetition Priming: a type of "procedural memory" manifested as a change in the ability to identify an item as a result of a previous encounter with the item or stimuli. (MeSH)

Representing: the action of presenting to the mind or imagination; an image or idea thus presented. The mental process or faculty of forming a clear image or idea. (Oxford) Noun - ‘representation.’

Explicit: distinctively expressing all that is meant; leaving nothing merely implied or suggested; unambiguous; clear. (Oxford)

Explicit Representation: (occurs when) a set of neurons ‘detects’ the feature of some stimulus attribute without much further processing. If no such neurons exist or if they are destroyed, the subject is unable to consciously perceive that attribute directly. Underlying every direct and conscious perception is an explicit representation (Koch, 306) A representation that allows the encoded attribute, (for example orientation, color, or facial identity), to be easily extracted. An explicit representation is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the “NCC.” (Koch, 335) An explicit representation should (not respond) to those aspects of the input that do not convey any specific information about the feature symbolized. (Koch, 27) Also referred to as ‘explicit coding.’

Implicit: implied though not plainly expressed; able to be inferred. Of an idea or feeling: not clearly formulated, vague, indefinite. (Oxford)

Implicit Representation: all of the visual information that the brain can access is implicitly encoded by more than 200 million “photoreceptors” in the two eyes. This ocean of data is of little use however, until higher processing stages have extracted meaningful features. The opposite of "explicit representation." (Koch, 26)

Invariant: unchanged by a specified transformation or operation. (Oxford)

Invariant Representation: the brain’s internal representation. The “cerebral cortex” handles variations in the world automatically. (Hawkins, 69) The problem of understanding how your cortex forms invariant representation remains one of the biggest mysteries of all science. (Hawkins, 78) Learning sequences is the most basic ‘ingredient’ for forming invariant representations of real world objects. Objects can be ‘concrete,' like a face, a door, or a lizard, or they can be "abstract," like a word or a theory. The brain treats abstract and concrete objects the same way. They are both just sequences of patterns that occur over time, in a predictable fashion. (Hawkins, 128)

Mental Image: a mental representation of objects or events that are not physically present. (Hockenbury, 260)

Nested Structure: every object in the world is composed of a collection of smaller objects and most objects are part of larger objects. For example, in music: “notes” are combined to form intervals; intervals are combined to form melodic phrases; phrases are combined to form songs; songs are combined into albums. The nested or hierarchical structure of the cortex stores a model of the nested structure of the world. (Hawkins, 126-127) Also referred to as a ‘hierarchical structure.’

Retrieving: the operation of accessing information or removing an item from storage. (NCIt) The action or an instance of remembering; the ability to remember. (Oxford) Being able to access and use memories stored in the brain. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 51) The process whereby a representation of past experience is elicited. (MeSH) To make predictions of future events, the “cortex” has to: (1) store sequences of “patterns,” and (2) retrieve patterns by their similarity to past patterns (in order to recall the appropriate memories). Steps 1 and 2 enable knowledge of past events to be applied to new situations that are similar but not identical, to the past. (Hawkins, 104) A story is stored in your head in a ‘sequential’ fashion and can only be recalled in the same sequence. For example, you have a thorough memory of your house, but to recall it, you have to go through it in sequential segments in much the same way as you experience it. As you start to recall what is in your home, one set of neurons becomes active, which then leads to another set of neurons being active, and so on. Even though we have a huge memory capacity and have stored many things, we can only remember a few at any time and can only do so in a sequence of “associations.” Your memory of a song is a great example of ‘temporal’ sequences of memory. (Hawkins, 70-71) Noun - ‘retrieval.’ Also referred to as ‘recalling' and more commonly, ’remembering.’

Context Effect: the tendency to recover information more easily when the retrieval occurs in the same setting as the original learning of the information. The environmental cues in a particular context (sights, sounds, aromas) can become encoded as part of the unique memories one forms while in that context. These same environmental cues can act as retrieval cues to help one access the memories formed in that context. (Hockenbury, 232)

False Memory: a distorted or fabricated recollection of something that did not actually occur. (Hockenbury, 240) False Memory: a distorted or fabricated recollection of something that did not actually occur. (Hockenbury, 240) Memories are not perfect records of the past; they are vulnerable to forgetting, a process whereby details (or even entire events) can be lost. They are also vulnerable to modification in which incorrect details are inserted into a memory. These errors can be trivial or can alter the entire flavor of the memory, leading to a false memory. When people recollect a memory, they sometimes make errors -  deleting some details, fabricating others, and generally trying to reconstruct the information in a way that makes sense. In general, memory is not a literal record in the way that a photograph or tape recording is. (MemoryLossOnline)

Prophetic: characterized by or of the nature of containing a prediction; predicting something. (Oxford)

Proust Effect: the unusual ability of a smell to enhance memory retrieval. (Medina, 211)

Retrieval Cue: a clue, prompt, or hint that can help trigger recall of a stored memory. (Hockenbury, 229)

Storing: maintaining links to encoded information. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 51) The process of retaining information in memory so that it can be used at a later date. (Hockenbury, 218) Memories are stored not in the cells themselves, but in the overall pattern of electrical signals firing between cells. (Einstein, 28) The neural “pathways” initially recruited to process new information, end up becoming the permanent pathways the brain reuses to store the information. (Medina, 112) Storage is a cooperative event. Many brain regions are involved in representing even single inputs, and each region contributes something different to the entire memory. (Medina, 113) Noun - ‘storage.’ Also referred to as ‘retaining’ or ‘retention.’

Consolidating: the process of converting “short-term memory” traces to longer, sturdier forms. (Medina, 1250) How (memory) becomes firmly established. (Kandel, 210) Consolidation refers to a presumed process by which new information is placed into long-term memory storage. Incoming information is often placed into short-term memory … or into “working memory.” However, these forms of memory are essentially transient. At some point, the information must be established in long-term memory to survive. (MemoryLossOnline) Noun - 'consolidation.'

Effortless Experts: brain process that helps protect long-term memory/pattern storage. The process that leverages practice and experience, to reduce the metabolic demands of the neural tissue performing a task. This suggests that the brain can do a credible job of solving routine problems with fewer resources, including diminished blood supply. (Goldberg, 136) 

Forgetting: the inability to retrieve information from memory caused by interference, memory loss, or inadequate cues to access information. (Schunk, 36) Occurs when we no longer have access to a memory. The brain does not remember everything it has ever experienced, only those experiences that have successfully passed from "working" to "long-term memory," and for which retrieval has been made possible through practice. We forget something when (a) we never memorized it in the first place, or (b) when we have not strengthened the neural pathways for retrieval, and thus access to a memory is lost. (Tokuhama-Espinosa, 95) It may refer to information which had been temporarily stored in “short-term memory.” In general use, however, forgetting is usually assumed to refer to loss of information from long-term memory. The biological mechanism of forgetting is still not completely understood. Today, many researchers believe that stored memories can actually become lost, either by decay or by being overwritten with new information. Often, the failure to retrieve a memory reflects not "forgetting" or loss per se, but the fact that the memory was not well stored in the first place. Alternatively, forgetting may be a temporary failure of retrieval; in this case, the memory is temporarily unavailable, but may be accessible later. However, memories also simply grow weaker with time; details fall away. Such forgetting is an important component of healthy memory: without some mechanism for selectivity, memory would soon become overwhelmed by the details of every piece of information ever experienced. Rehearsal or periodic retrieval of a memory certainly helps to prevent or delay forgetting; important or meaningful information can survive for decades or even a lifetime with no appreciable loss of detail. (MemoryLossOnline)

Decay Theory: the view that forgetting is due to normal metabolic processes that occur in the brain over time. (Hockenbury, 237) When referring to memory, the fading or weakening of memories (is) assumed to occur when “memory traces” become weaker. (Coon)

Forgetting Curve: German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885) transformed the analysis of human memory from an introspective study into a laboratory science. (Kandel, 208) He plotted the forgetting curve and found that forgetting had at least two phases: a rapid initial decline that was sharpest in the first hour after learning and then a much more gradual decline that continued for about a month. (Kandel, 210)

Imagination Inflation: a memory phenomenon in which vividly imagining an event markedly increases confidence that the event actually occurred. (Hockenbury, 242)

Interference Theory: the theory that forgetting is caused by one memory competing with or replacing another. (Hockenbury, 237)

Misinformation Effect: a memory-distortion phenomenon in which a person’s existing memories can be altered if the person is exposed to misleading information. (Hockenbury, 239)

Retrieval Cue Failure: the inability to recall long-term memories because of inadequate or missing retrieval cues. (Hockenbury, 239)

Source Confusion: a memory distortion that occurs when the true source of the memory is forgotten. (Hockenbury, 240)

Molecular Problem of Memory: asks the question ‘What are the molecular mechanisms whereby (memory) storage occurs at each site?’ (Kandel Brain and Mind, 3)

Systems Problem of Memory: asks the question ‘Where in the brain are the various memories stored, what different regions store different kinds of memory?’ (Kandel Brain and Mind, 3)