Long Term Memory:
Many psychologists believe that once information is in long term memory, it says there forever. If we are unable to retrieve information that was once in long term memory, it is usually not because the material is lost from long term memory, but because we don't have enough cues to be able to find it. Let's demonstrate this.
What did you eat for dinner last night?
If you remembered what you ate for dinner last night, this information must have been in your long term memory (because you ate dinner more than 30 seconds ago, and you are still able to remember what you ate). Presumably we have information about every dinner we ever ate somewhere in our long term memories. Usually, however, it is impossible to retrieve that information.
What did you eat for dinner a week ago?
Most people cannot easily retrieve that information. But I think it is still in your long term memory. Maybe you can find it if I give you some cues. Think about all the things you did a week ago. Consult your organizer or calendar if you need to. Where did you eat dinner and who were you with?
Now do you remember what you ate for dinner a week ago?
Once information is in long term memory,
it generally stays there. If we can't remember something that is
in our long term memory, it generally represents a retrieval problem.
Providing additional cues or information can often improve retrieval.
Important point: Retrieval of information from long term memory is usually easiest if we focus on the meaning of the information both while learning it and while retrieving it.
Important point: The capacity (the number of pieces of information that can be held in memory) of long term memory appears to be virtually unlimited.
Important point: The duration (amount of time information can be held in memory) of long term memory appears to be virtually unlimited.
Important point: If you can't remember something you once knew, it is probably a retrieval problem.
This page was last revised on 09/09/2008.