How to improve our memory & long term retention?

(co-authored by Elisa Arnold)

Brains can hold up to 2.5 petabytes of information. For a better understanding of this enormous amount, it is important to note that 1 petabyte worth of data can be compared to the storage needed if a person took over 4000 photographs every day for the rest of their life. Although the brain can hold this large amount of information, our short-term memory is not very reliable. Most of the information we store in short-term memory will only be stored for around 20 to 30 seconds (Reber, 2010). Luckily, there are many techniques that can help keep information stored for longer.

How Short-Term Memory Can Become Long-Term?

Three examples of key strategies to retain information are:

  1. Active Learning
  2. Maintenance Rehearsal
  3. Audio Repetition

Active learning is the act of being engaged and involved in the learning process. Learning with “intention” occurs when students are interested in the information presented to them, motivating them to want to learn more. For example, taking notes and annotating texts are examples of active learning, where students get to make their own commentary and opinions on the information. Forming opinions and deeper thoughts allows for a much better understanding, making the information more memorable.

Another way to help make short-term memory into long-term memory is Maintenance rehearsal. This is the action of repeatedly reviewing and re-reading material in order to grasp the concepts. Students commonly use maintenance rehearsal when studying for exams and reviewing course material. By overlooking one’s notes repeatedly the information is better understood and can easily be recalled during the exam and in the future. Flashcards are another common method of maintenance rehearsal. They help students simplify terms while also assisting in the memorization process.

A third strategy is called Audio repetition, which is the act of repeatedly listening to the same information to help memorize topics. Similar to listening to a song repeatedly to learn the lyrics, students can re-listen to podcasts, speeches, or lectures to help retain important Information. It has been proven that listening to information more than once allows it to be better remembered.

Memory consolidation is the process where short-term memories are transformed into long-term memories. When learning, writing, and listening to any new information the brain reacts by firing neurons. By constantly causing these neurons to fire, the brain strengthens its neural network. By doing this repeatedly, the neurons are more likely to repeat the same firing process in order to remember the same information at a later date (Cherry, 2022).

Encoding is the first step in the memory consolidation process. This occurs when the frontal cortex of the brain along with the hippocampus analyzes information based on one’s senses and initial perceptions. Next, these two parts of the brain must decide whether the information is worth remembering (Mohs, 2007). Once the brain decides the information being sent is worth being remembered, then the information will be stored in long-term memory.

Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

Factors of Short-Term Memory Loss

Unfortunately, many people experience short-term memory loss throughout their lifetime which can be extremely frustrating. This happens when you forget things that have occurred very recently. Some factors that affect memory loss are anxiety, depression, stress, sleep deprivation, and alcohol or drug use (Mohs, 2007).

In order to be more successful in daily tasks, efforts must be made to avoid the struggles of short-term memory loss.

How Upword Can Help Knowledge Workers Store Memory

Upword is a website that allows users to upload content and automatically extracts the key ideas in seconds. This function saves lots of time by helping users get the gist of the article, fast.

Upword also allows users to personalize their summaries by including full editing abilities like highlighting and commenting features, or rephrasing the AI notes. These all contribute to active learning and better retention.

Another main benefit of using Upword is the audio tool. This tool allows users to listen to their summaries repeatedly after publishing them. Students and other knowledge workers can benefit from this feature by listening to important information over and over again to help store information in their long-term memory — creating audio repetition.

These unique feature that Upword offers along with the opportunity to personalize your summaries will allow its users to better retain important information and reduce the stress of short-term memory loss.