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Genetics plays a role, but lifestyle choices—like exercising regularly, eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, not smoking , and watching blood pressure and cholesterol levels—can have a huge impact. People can boost memory with proven techniques like repeating what they hear out loud, writing things down, creating associations, and dividing new information into learnable chunks. By making healthy choices, a person can slow memory loss and improve cognition in their later years.

4 Types of Memory: Sensory, Short-Term, Working & Long-Term

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Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Back Magazine. The Power of Boundaries Sharing personal information brings people closer together. Your working memory can hold about seven plus or minus two pieces of information at a time, so about five to nine. This does vary a little bit based on how complicated those pieces of information are, how old you are, that kind of thing.

2. Memory Storage

But generally, it's right around seven. And an interesting fact is that this is actually why phone numbers started out as seven digits long. It was determined that that's as many pieces of information as a person could hold in mind without getting numbers confused or mixing them up. And just like sensory memory has different components for different types of input, working memory has different components to process those distinct types of input.

Visual and spatial information, like pictures and maps, are processed in the aptly-named visuo-spatial sketchpad, while verbal information, meaning words and numbers, are processed in the phonological loop. Again, think of repeating a phone number to yourself just long enough to type it in.

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That's using your phonological loop. Be careful here, though. So we've got a little bit of mix-and-match here. Now, you might be thinking that sometimes you need to process input place that has verbal and visual information together, such as a map with street names and landmarks. In that case, you need someone to coordinate the efforts of the visuo-spatial sketchpad and the phonological loop.

Short-term memory

So something called the central executive fills that role. You can think of him kind of like a traffic cop who directs the other components of working memory. Once the central executive tells the visuo-spatial sketchpad and the phonological loop to coordinate, then they create an integrated representation that gets stored in the episodic buffer, which acts as a connector to long-term memory. Long-term memory is the final stage in the information processing model.

When stuff gets in here, it's like hitting the Save button on your computer. Unfortunately, our memories aren't quite as foolproof as that.

Types of Memory

It doesn't work perfectly. But we can store a lot of information in long-term memory. Once again, there are different components that specialize in different types of memories.

We have two main categories-- explicit, also called declarative, and implicit, also called non-declarative. As you can see, psychologists like to give these things multiple names, but fortunately, they can generally be broken down into something that makes sense, so don't get intimidated.

Explicit memories, for example, are facts or events that you can clearly or explicitly describe.

Types of Memory - BrainHQ from Posit Science

So any time you take a vocabulary test or remember the state capitals, you're using a specific type of explicit memory called semantic memory. And "semantic" just means "having to do with words," so you can think about it as being able to remember simple facts like the meaning of words. A second type of explicit memory is called episodic memory, which is memory for events, like your last birthday party. Just like a TV episode is a sequence of events, your episodic memory stores event-related memories.

While explicit memories are easy to define, implicit memories are a little bit fuzzier. They involve things you may not be able to articulate, such as how to ride a bicycle. You probably can't say clearly how much pressure to put on the pedals or exactly how to turn the handlebars. But provided that you ever learned in the first place, if you get on a bike and just do it, you probably won't fall over. Memories for procedures like riding a bike are conveniently called "procedural memories. For example, if I say the word "hair," what do you think of? If you paid attention at the beginning of this video, then you might have thought of "hair" as "H-A-R-E," meaning "rabbit," because you were primed with the bunny picture at the beginning.

Your recent experience of seeing a bunny stayed in your memory and influenced your interpretation of the word that I said. If you weren't paying attention, or if you've maybe had to push your hair out of your face in the last few minutes, then you might have thought of "hair" as "H-A-I-R," because it's generally a more common word. With all these components of memory, you might be wondering how much it can actually hold. I think we've all had the feeling that we can't possibly take in any more information, and while it might be true but you can't process any more information at the moment, unlike like the computer in front of you, as far as we know, long-term memory capacity is unlimited.

So your brain never actually gets too full for more information.