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Memory is the nervous system's capacity to acquire and retain skills and knowledge for later retrieval. Simply, it is the remembrance of things past.

We have multiple memory systems that have their own "rules." The memory processes that are required for information retrieval in 10 seconds are different than the processes for information retrieval in 10 years. Unlike recordings, our memories are often biased, incomplete, and distorted. Two people can have two vastly different memories of the same event. (Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 233)[1]

Phases of Memory


In the encoding phase, the brain changes information into a meaningful neural code that it can use, such as how you are reading the text on this page. (Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 233)[1]


This stage is how an individual maintains the coded representation in the brain. It can last from a fraction of a section or last as long as a lifetime. There are three storage systems that differ in the length of time that they store information. (Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 233)[1]

Sensory Storage

The sensory storage creates perceptual continuity for the world around us. It is experienced with every sense: sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. It lasts up to a few seconds, depending on the sense. It has a vast capacity due to the huge amount of sensory input. (Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 239)[1]

Cognitive psychologist George Sperling's 1960 study provided answers for some of the questions we had for sensory storage. There were three rows of four letters that flashed on a screen for one-twentieth of second. Participants were asked to remember all 12 letters. Most could only name three or four, but the time that it took them to name the first three or four letters, the forgot the other eight or nine. (Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 239)[1]

Short-term Storage

Short-term storage maintains information for immediate use. It is about 20 seconds to an indefinite amount of time with working memory manipulation of items. It can store about seven items, plus or minus two. The "working memory" enables us to work with short-term storage.(Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 240)[1]

Long-term Storage

Long-term storage is the accumulation of information for re-access and use at a later time. It probably has an unlimited duration and capacity of storage.(Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 242)[1]


In the final phase of memory, retrieval, the individual re-accesses the information from the previous stages. The accuracy of our memories is due in part to how we pay attention.(Grison & Gazzaniga, pg. 234)[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Grison, Sarah, and Michael S. Gazzaniga. Psychology in Your Life. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2017.