How Does The Human Brain Store And Retrieve Memories And Information?

To understand the process of thinking in a young child, it becomes essential to understand the concepts of Information Processing and Multiple Intelligences in young minds. Together, the concepts makes it very simple for us to understand, comprehensively, how does the human brain store and retrieve memories.

While this article elaborates on Richard Shiffrin and Atkinson Model of Information Processing, Gardner’s Model of Multiple Intelligence is already covered here.

The educational implications of these three models or approaches (Shiffrin, Atkinson and Gardner) would be dealt in another article soon.

In this article:

In this article, you will gain an insight into how the human mind stores information, retrieves information and derives meaning from the information processed; through the following two heads:

  1. Richard Atkinson’s and Richard Shiffrin’s Information Processing Theory
  2. The 3 Major Control Processes of Human Mind 

The Information Processing approach, just like the one proposed by Piaget, supposed the idea that every child is both active and inquisitive by nature.

This approach views the mind is like a computer that takes information from outside by encoding, and stores them in a symbolic form though various internal processes like Recording or Decoding. The information is stored in such a way that the individual is facilitated to make sense of their experiences out of the information received.

Richard Atkinson’s and Richard Shiffrin’s Information Processing Theory

Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin have together proposed what is considered by far the most accepted Store Model of Information Processing.

According to Atkinson’s and Shiffrin’s information processing theory, each human being’s memory has got three parts:

  1. Sensory Register
  2. Working Memory (also known as Short-Term Memory)
  3. Long-Term Memory

The question how does the human brain store and retrieve memories and information is explained in the form of sub-heads from here on.

Any information enters the human mind, first, through the Sensory Register. However, the information received by the sensory register cannot be retained for long.

For example, when you have a look at an image for a brief moment and close your eyes, you won’t be able to remember the image for long, unless you adopted some deliberate method to remember it.

Then comes the working or Short-Term Memory, which is also referred to as the conscious part of the human mind. The short-term memory is a part of the mental system where a certain quantum of information can be stored and processed – actively.

For example, certain memory strategies such as Association (connections), Organization (arranging) or Repetition (viewing again and again) of images may be adopted by us to remember a particular image or a particular lot of images.

Then comes the Long-Term Memory, which is also referred to as the permanent knowledge base. All the information entering into this part of the human mind is archived based on the nature of content in holds, just like how books are grouped and classified in the library.

Since the capacity for long-term memory is practically limitless, the common yet major challenge encountered is the ease and speed of retrieval of information. This is the reason why novel strategies have to be adopted to retrieve a piece of information from the long-term memory to the short term memory for active processing.

Three major control processes has to be taken up towards this working of human mind.

Also Read : Why is Early Childhood the Most Important Period for Brain Development?

The 3 Major Control Processes of Human Mind 

The control process of the human mind is nothing but the mental strategies the human mind uses to:

  • Enhance the efficiency of thinking across every level of the mental system, as well as
  • Retain the ability for further processing or referencing at a future point in time.

The three types of mental strategies that the human mind uses are:

a) Attention

Attention determines the extent to which information can be fed into the mind.

During infancy and toddlerhood, young children have minimum attention span and are distracted very easily, which is considered natural and therefore normal. Infancy is a stage when a child focuses only on normal and stimulating events. During toddlerhood, there is an increase in goal-directed behavior, which gradually improves the child’s attention span.

During early and middle-childhood however, the span of attention improves significantly. By the end of the early childhood period their attention span extends up to 7 minutes. It is also said that by the end of 6th year, Planful Attention sets in, though not mature.

b) Memory

Mental activities that are carried out deliberately to improve the likelihood of remembering is called Memory Strategies.

This strategy emerges during the preschool years but improves drastically during middle childhood. The language skills gained during the early childhood years also aid in memory of preschoolers.

Any information fed to the human mind is stored using three processes, namely:

Rehearsal: Which is nothing but the repeating scheme of information to oneself.

Organisation: Which refers to the grouping of related items in the information.

Elaboration: Which is the process of creating a relationship between two or more information.

With these three processes, the information fed passes on from the sensory register to short-term memory, and subsequently to long-term memory. Once the information is shelved in the long-term memory, it can be retrieved for use at a future point in time.

How Does Memory or Information Get Retrieved?

Retrieving is possible in three ways, namely:

Recognition: Which is the strategy of realizing, that information received is similar to the one previously experienced.

Recall: Which refers to the capacity to generate a mental representation of an absent stimulus

Reconstruction: Which is an information that is said to be reconstructed by adding or condensing or integrating the stored information.

c) Metacognition

Metacognition is defined as the awareness and understanding of various aspects of thought. This strategy starts during early childhood and expands greatly in the middle childhood, just like memory.

The two major phases of metacognition experienced by children in their early years are:

Mind Reading: Which involves the ability to deduct their own as well as others feelings or desires, etc.

What Does it Means to Think: This is a phase that allows a child to aim at certain realization, such as “The word ‘Umbrella’ is too big to pronounce, so I would ‘Syllabify’ and then pronounce.

Also Read : 5 Important Parts of the Human Brain and their Functions

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.