Have you ever forgotten an important thing?
- In the recording phase, the information that you have just learned is first saved in your short-term memory before it is either deleted again or coded and saved as a long-term memory. If you perform an action inattentively, such as thoughtlessly putting your glasses somewhere before you leave the room, you will likely have forgotten the details of that action and the exact location by the time you come back to look for your glasses.
- In the consolidation phase, the information you have learned is transferred to long-term memory. The likelihood that this will happen is all the greater if this new information is related to other long-term memories, if it makes sense in some way (e.g. is related to historical or important events) or if a strong sensory impression is associated with it.
- In the retrieval phase, the information stored in your memory is retrieved by reactivating the neural pattern that was used to store it. When you feel like something is “on the tip of your tongue”, your memory process is often in this phase and there are a few methods you can use to speed up this phase, stimulate your memory, and bring back memories.
- For example, if you thought of something in the living room and you forgot about it by the time you got to the kitchen, you should go back to the living room. When you return to the familiar context, there is a good chance that it will help you find and retrieve the forgotten information.
Reconstruct your train of thought. If you cannot physically return to the place where you had the thought that you have now forgotten, you should try to imagine where you have been, what you did, and how your thoughts were linked. Since many memories are stored along similar, overlapping neural patterns, reconstructing your train of thought could help you restore the forgotten thought by bringing out similar ideas related to the new memory.
Restore the original environmental factors. For example, if you heard a particular song or viewed a particular website than you thought the thought you have now forgotten, you can more easily retrieve the forgotten information by restoring the specific environmental characteristics of that situation.
Think of or talk about something that has nothing to do with your memory. Because your brain stores so much information along the same overlapping neural patterns, it often happens that the memory process “gets stuck” and retrieves related, yet “incorrect” information. For example, it can happen to you all other Actors come to mind who have ever played Batman, but not the name of the particular actor you are actually thinking of. If you think of something else, you may be able to "reset" your memory retrieval process.
Just relax. Fear or worry often prevents one from remembering the simplest information. If you can't think of anything at all, you shouldn't let it bother you; take a few deep breaths to calm yourself, then try again to restore the forgotten thought.
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