Short-Term Memory vs. Long-Term Memory

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Memory is the basis of mental activity which is also the process of memorization, preservation, and subsequent playback of the individuals’ experiences (Banbury, 12). Memory helps us to maintain what we already have studied or learned. Memory and its various options (photos, stories, and memories) are a form of existence of our past. Memory connects the past to the present and future (Banbury, 12).

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In the broadest sense, memory can be defined as a mechanism for fixing the information acquired and used by a living organism (Sharps, 124). The main processes by which the memory operates are memorizing, reproducing, and forgetting. The two major systems of memory are short-term and long-term memory which are separate but connected to some extent. The discussion of their similarities and differences will be the focus of this paper (Cappelletto, 241).

Short-term memory has been studied substantially by scholars. For instance, Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968) in their Modal Memory Model argue that the Short-Term Store of data (STS) is of primary importance for developing people’s memorizing and cognitive abilities (Tucker, 145). In its essence, the model developed by Atkinson and Shiffrin is functional because it explains all the phenomena of interest from the point of view of their functions and activities. In other words, Atkinson and Shiffrin ponder on the importance of numerous and often repeated rehearsals of the information which is to be memorized.

As a result, the authors of this theory conclude that the more the data are rehearsed, the higher is the possibility of their transference to the long-term memory stores (Healy, 143). The actuality and accuracy of this theory can not be doubted because every person can experience its performance in real life by trying to memorize numerous figures or dates. It is easier when a person has experience in dealing with such tasks and repeats the information necessary to memorize as many times as possible (McKelvie, 110).

The only difference may be in the number of times needed to memorize information which is dependant on the personal peculiarities of every human being. However, on the other hand, this theory is considered to be rather irrelevant as some scholars (Miller and Harvard, 211) are of the mind that its main principles are based on the mechanical operations of repeating and memorization while the importance of understanding for memories is underestimated.

In any case, the information of short-term memory is dealt with by the higher lobes of the brain deal. This is only the information that attracts the attention of a person most of all (Heinen, 289). The peculiarity of this type of memory is the fact that it is not supportive, and, compared to the instant trace, already substantially revised. The duration of short-term memory is approximately 20 seconds. The amount of the data that it can memorize is calculated within 7 ± 2 units. An example of how the short-term memory capacity may limit cognitive activities is the limited possibility to count in mind (Sharps, 124). Quickly overloaded short-term memory prevents people from accumulating intermediate operations and data (Johnston, 34).

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Thus, the amount of new information replaces partially the data that are already stored there leading to permanent loss of the latter, which is not forgotten but transferred to the long-term memory. This process is called substitution (Schwartz, 481). In particular, this occurs when we often have difficulties with remembering the names of the people to whom we have just been introduced because the amount of information available in these words is at the edge of the capacity of short-term memory (Schwartz, 482). And if the new information is added (and this is precisely what happens when people-partners begin to speak), the old information, particularly about names, is replaced. We stop repeating those names and as a result, forget them (Tucker, 147).

To prevent substitution, to retain a large amount of material in short-term memory for a longer period and ensure it’s transferring into long-term memory, a person can resort to multiple repetitions of the necessary data (Heinen, 290). The longer the information is stored in short-term memory, the more solid the long-term footprint is. Thus, it is possible to control the short-term memory arbitrarily (Banbury, 12). The information stored in short-term memory may be affected to a lesser extent than the one in the instantaneous memory. This is made possible at the expense of the greater duration of conservation and greater recycling (Banbury, 12).

From the information placed to the short-term memory, the brain selects what will be stored in long-term memory. To transfer the traces emerging in the short-term memory into long-term the time of 15 minutes to 1 hour is needed (the so-called period of consolidation). The volume of long-term memory and storage time are considered virtually unlimited (Healy, 143). Converted information is more available for retrieval and playback.

It is believed that all information provided to the brain, is remembered. The forgotten information just goes to the unconscious, and we can not retrieve this information (Healy, 143). Indeed, there are several substances able to retrieve it and use in practice. The same effect can be achieved through hypnosis or electrical stimulation of certain lobes and areas of the brain (Cappelletto, 241).

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A significant role in the transformation of information and its reproduction is played by logical thinking, an important part of which are. As a logical categorization depends on the speech, long-term memory that stores converted information is called semantic (more generally, its name is arbitrary or indirect). The non-transformed information is occasionally a part of long-term memory. Much of inadvertent memory probably is not operating.

Wide access to it opens in special situations: during hypnosis and some other states of the body (for example, the increasing temperature during the illness). Despite this, the involuntary memory is continuously involved in the subconscious. The interaction between these two types of long-term memory is particularly evident during sleep in the form of dreams, which are interpreted by many researchers as they transition from the logic of abstract symbols to the pictures (Miller, 211).

When long-term memory is formed, its main elements are structural and spatial, which, however, does not mean that it is the combination of a certain structure and processes that happen to it (Tucker, 161). Even vice versa, it is the cause of its resistance to many external shocks and a significant contrast to the touch and short forms of memory, which essentially is a process. The sustainability of long-term memory depends on the sustainability of the dynamics of intracellular and intercellular biochemical processes (Tucker, 165).

Thus, Baddeley (1966) is convinced that the difference in storing some data in the short-term and some other in the long-term memory depends upon the system of coding that is used by this or that type of memory (Schwartz, 511). According to Schwartz (1998), Baddeley considers short-term memory to be mostly focused upon the phonological similarity or dissimilarity of pieces of information.

For instance, if words “mad, man, map”, etc. are phonologically similar, they are easy to remember for short-term memory, while the dissimilar words “boy, tree, computer”, etc. are difficult for the short-term storing. at the same time, long-term memory is semantically oriented (Schwartz, 512). In other words, it is easier to place the semantically similar data in the Long-Term Store (LTS). For example, “ground, soil” are semantically similar and are ready for the transference into the long-term memory, while “boxing, dinner” is semantically dissimilar and there is a need of a certain factor that would unite them for their transference to any kind of memory (Schwartz, 514).

This theory has its advantages and drawbacks as well. On one hand, it is adequate as people are more likely to memorize more items of information that are related to each other or close in meaning. Drawing from this, the theory of the division of labor is derived according to which people have to deal with a single subject they are good at to ensure the best outcomes possible (Johnston, 34).

On the other hand, this theory can be doubted from the point of view of such professions as translators who have to deal with numerous items of information from various spheres of human activities and this does not prevent them from displaying perfect memorizing abilities in respect of both short-term and long-term memory systems (Johnston, 34).

Thus, the types of memory work as separate systems. The transferring of the short-term memory to the long-term requires changes in the brain, protecting the memory from interference with other drivers and erasing brain injuries or illnesses (Sharps, 128). The process by which, over time, our impression is firmly fixed in memory is called consolidation. Cellular and molecular events in the consolidation usually develop during the first minutes or hours after training and lead to surgery in neurons (nerve cells) or groups of neurons.

Later, over days or even years, there can occur much slower consolidation at the system level, at which the reorganized neural network is involved in the processing of many individual memories (Sharps, 129). The process of consolidation affects the declaratory memory that is diverted to the memories of facts and specific events based on the work of the hippocampus and other high brain structures (Sharps, 130).

At the cellular level, memory is reflected in changes in the structure and function of neurons (Tucker, 154). For example, there may be new synapses (connections between neurons, with which they share information), which allow building new neural networks. As an alternative, existing synapses may worsen, ensuring greater susceptibility of neurons in the process of exchange of information with one another. The consolidation of these synaptic changes requires a new synthesis of RNA and protein in the hippocampus, which allows time to make the modifications synaptic transmission in sustainable restructuring synaptic architecture (Cappelletto, 241).

Over time, the overlying altered brain structure changes when the new memory hippocampus operates in conjunction with the sensory areas of the new crust (the outer layer of the brain). The elements of the memory of any event of our lives are divided into many areas of crust, by their content. For example, visual information is processed in the primary visual cortex (in proportion to the occipital posterior pole of the brain), while the sound information is analyzed primarily by the auditory crust (in temporal lobe shares on the sides of the brain) (Miller, 211).

When only memory is formed, the hippocampus immediately brings scattered fragments of information together into a single memory, speaking as a directory of individual records stored in various areas of the sensory cortex (Schwartz, 501). Over time, through a series of cellular and molecular processes, strengthening of ties between the areas of new crust that allows you to access the memory without the aid hippocampus takes place. Thus, while the defeat in the hippocampus trauma or neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s disease) violates the formation of a new declarative memory, the memory of facts and events, that have already successfully undergone consolidation at the system level, can survive (Healy, 143).

To conclude, memory is the process of memorization, preservation, reproduction, and forgetting traces of experience, allowing the human to gain information and to deal with traces of experience. It links the past with the subject of its present and future and has a critical cognitive function that underlies development and training. The experimental evidence used for the completion of this paper is rather relevant and valuable for further research in this field.

Even though memory is a rather difficult matter of study due to its location in the human brain, the evidence presented in the works by famous scholars like Baddeley, Mason, and others deserves close attention and careful consideration. Their hypothesis and theories seem to be rather convincing and reliable in their strong theoretical and research support. The experiments carried out by those scholars brought the results that were of great help in writing this paper and considering the major differences of the short-term and long-term memories.

Works Cited

Banbury, Simon P., William J. Macken, Sebastien Tremblay, and Dylan M. Jones. “Auditory Distraction and Short-Term Memory: Phenomena.” Human Factors 43.1 (2001): 12.

Cappelletto, Francesca. “Long-Term Memory of Extreme Events: From Autobiography to History.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 9.2 (2003): 241+.

Healy, Alice F., and Danielle S. Mcnamara. “Verbal Learning and Memory: Does the Modal Model Still Work?.” Annual Review of Psychology (1996): 143+.

Heinen, James R. K. “Psychological Theory: Evaluation and Speculations.” Journal of Psychology 106.2 (1980): 287-310.

Johnston, Paul Dennithorne. “A Clone of Your Own.” ETC.: A Review of General Semantics 59.1 (2002): 34+.

McKelvie, Stuart J. “Sex Differences in Memory for Faces.” Journal of Psychology 107.1 (1981): 109-125.

Miller, Wendy S., and Harvard L. Armus. “Directed Forgetting: Short-Term Memory or Conditioned Response?.” The Psychological Record 49.2 (1999): 211.

Schwartz, Daniel L., and John D. Bransford. “A Time for Telling.” Cognition and Instruction 16.4 (1998): 475-522.

Sharps, Matthew J., Jana L. Price, and V. Michael Bence. “Visual and Auditory Information As Determinants of Primacy Effects.” Journal of General Psychology 123.2 (1996): 123-136.

Tucker, Philip. “Voice as Interface: an Overview.” International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction 3.2 (1991): 145-170.

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PsychologyWriting. "Short-Term Memory vs. Long-Term Memory." January 14, 2022.