Knowledge Acquisition and Memory Development

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The development of one’s cognitive skills has always been one of the most challenging research questions for scholars all over the world. In fact, one of the most crucial aspects discussed in terms of the research was the hierarchy of the learning process, i.e., identifying which internal and external factors contribute to the individual’s ability to perceive and remember information. Hence, three major approaches to the learning process were identified:

  • Behaviorism, which stands for reaching a specific response through the environmental stimulus;
  • Cognitivism, which places emphasis on the internal processes of knowledge acquisition;
  • Constructivism, which states that the learning process is acquired through defining meaning from various experiences (Ertmer & Newby, 2017).

Considering the aforementioned information, it might be noted that the overall definitions of the learning process encompass quite similar attitudes while explaining the phenomenon from different diachronic perspectives. Thus, it is of crucial importance to account for the external factors contributing to a particular learning process approach in order to understand the motivation behind each theory. The primary purpose of the following paper is to define the peculiarities of the cognitivism theory in terms of knowledge acquisition and memory development.

Effective Knowledge and Memory Development

It goes without saying that the process of learning is, by all means, a highly individual matter, and there is no universally accepted answer on how to manage successful skills and knowledge acquisition through a unified model. However, some of the discussed ideas might still be more beneficial in terms of specific learning skills proficiency, such as gaining knowledge and training one’s short-term and long-term memory. Thus, when it comes to the notion of cognitivism, the emphasis is placed on one’s participation in the process of acquiring new information. Researchers define cognitivist theory as “the emphasis on acquiring knowledge using internal processes resulted in the development of a learning theory” (Clark, 2018, p. 176). According to the dogmas of cognitivism, the major stress is placed upon the idea of direct participation in the learning process instead of the passive stimulus observation. The participation itself includes such aspects as:

  • Thinking;
  • Remembering;
  • Perceiving;
  • Interpreting;
  • Problem-solving (Clark, 2018).

Considering these notions, it becomes evident that the cognitivism as a method of knowledge acquisition promotes the learner’s ability to become involved in the process by means of constant material repetition followed by personal experience. In such a way, he or she has the ability to train one’s memory capabilities, along with the ongoing practice of critical thinking and evidence reasoning. For example, one of the most beneficial cognitive learning practices includes the notion of interleaving, which combines both memory and thinking development during the process. According to the interleaving technique, an individual combines several learning topics and studies them in the short-term sprints in order for them to have a ground for comparison and interrelation (Winn et al., 2019). In fact, conducting a critical analysis of the information provided benefits one’s ability to create associations with the notions, increasing one’s chances to practice long-term memory. Cramming the same material for a long period, on the contrary, contributes more to the short-term memory adaptation and quantitative capabilities.

The Mental Process of Knowledge

The overall approach to the process of skills and knowledge acquisition is quite systematized in the study of cognition and cognitivist branch as a whole. Thus, cognitive psychologists divided the overall process of learning into the so-called building blocks known as schemata stored in one’s long-term memory (Clark, 2018). While each of these schemas is formed on the various stages of human development, the three basic processes through which schemata s developed could be defined as follows:

  • Accretion – the process of acquiring new information through experiencing and active intervention;
  • Tuning – the process of schemata adjustment in order to create the foundation for learning reorganization;
  • Restructuring – the process of the already existing data reorganization in order to allow learners to acquire new skills and knowledge through critical analysis (Neumann & Kopcha, 2018).

Hence, to conclude, it might be mentioned that cognitivism as theory implies the accumulative pattern of a human brain and memory storage, building up a hierarchy of human experiences according to their novelty and relevance in the environment. Thus, human ability t acquire knowledge and remember things works as a neural network that collects all the empirical data in order to produce certain efficient outcomes. However, unlike neural networks, human cognitive ability has its limits and, thus, requires the system to be modified at times in order to make sure that the most necessary information is stored.

The Short-Term and Long-Term Memory

Human life is full of various events that take a toll on the individual’s behavioral patterns, overall life perception, and the ability to operate the obtained knowledge. Thus, when talking about the events taking place, it is of crucial importance to define which ones are to be stored for a long time, and which ones have a temporary value. Hence, the peculiarities of human memory storage might be represented through the presence of three major memory types:

  • Sensory memory – the type of memory, which is responsible for gathering the information from the environment through the senses of sight, sound, and touch;
  • Short-term (working) memory – the type of memory responsible for the human ability to store information for a certain timeframe;
  • Long-term memory – the type of memory responsible for storing crucial information for a long time (Camina & Güell, 2017).

Hence, it is of paramount importance to define which information and acquired knowledge are worth bearing in mind for a long time. In fact, the human brain is an impressive mechanism able to define the significance of the information on its own, depending on the frequency with which one encounters certain pieces of knowledge. For example, it goes without saying that the basic information concerning one’s personal information and ground knowledge of behavior is integrated into the long-term memory without much effort. Thus, the only question one should take into account when dealing with memory training is the actual information relevance in terms of its storage duration, as today’s world is replete with seemingly crucial information without bearing appropriate semantic load in reality.

For this reason, the cognitivist approach to learning defines the most efficient model of transferring information to the long-term memory segment, implying constant reorganization of the thinking patterns and data evaluation. For example, once particular information has crossed one’s mind, undergoing the stages of accretion, tuning, and restructuring, the human brain is ready to store the following knowledge in the long-term part, as it is, by all means, significant for one’s cognition. The only thing an individual should be responsible for is training the flexibility of the memory storage unit in order to modify its priorities in a timely manner.

Long-Term Memory Disruptions and False Memories

Some of the major parts of the long-term memory storage, however, do not derive from personal experience, as the cognitivist paradigm implies, being inevitably encoded in one’s consciousness. Such memory aspects include semantic, episodic, and autobiography memories. Once these parts of human cognition are tackled, the process can only be restored through active therapeutic intervention in the rehabilitation process. Some of the most widespread reasons behind such disruptions include serious psychological traumas, severe health conditions, anaphylactic shock rehabilitation, etc. (Metivier, 2020). Moreover, in some cases, even when the overall ability to recollect memories is not affected by some emotional trauma, people lose their ability to convey relevant information for the sake of their age. Thus, while older adults can remember the major gist of the situations or phenomena, their brain distorts the precise information and fills the story gaps with different information instead (Devitt & Schacter, 2016). One of the ways to avert this unwanted outcome is to perform constant memory training exercises. However, even though such an outcome might be either postponed or mitigated (e.g., avoiding elderly dementia), the overall memory deterioration and false memory emergence are practically unavoidable.


The overall acquisition of knowledge and training of memory is quite a sophisticated process that requires a great deal of cognitive effort in order to maintain a successful model of mental performance. Thus, in order to ensure a beneficial cognitive development of an individual, it is important to take into account the fact that skill acquisition is a highly individual matter, and the peculiarities of one’s mental capabilities are justified by one’s environment and natural predisposition to learn. To make sure that each of the factors is considered, researchers have defined a variety of approaches that encompass all the human specificities in terms of knowledge prerequisites. One of the most significant theories in the context of the aforementioned issue is the notion of cognitivism, which places considerable emphasis on the significance of one’s personal experiences.


‌ Neumann, K. L., & Kopcha, T. J. (2018). The use of schema theory in learning, design, and technology. TechTrends, 62(5), 429-431.

Camina, E., & Güell, F. (2017). The neuroanatomical, neurophysiological and psychological basis of memory: current models and their origins. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 8. Web.

Clark, K. R. (2018). Learning theories: cognitivism. Radiologic Technology, 90(2), 176-179.

Devitt, A. L., & Schacter, D. L. (2016). False memories with age: Neural and cognitive underpinnings. Neuropsychologia, 91, 346-359.

Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2017). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism. In Foundations of Learning and Instructional Design Technology. Pressbooks.

Metivier, A. (2020). Episodic memory and how to improve it: a step-by-step training guide. Web.

Winn, A. S., DelSignore, L., Marcus, C., Chiel, L., Freiman, E., Stafford, D., & Newman, L. (2019). Applying cognitive learning strategies to enhance learning and retention in clinical teaching settings. MedEdPORTAL, 15(1). Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Knowledge Acquisition and Memory Development." February 7, 2022.