How Memory Works

Some personal experience

I have two sons. One of them was a colicky baby. Night after night my partner would carry him around the room while I tried to get a little sleep. One night, for his own amusement, my partner chose a particular CD to play. Magic! As the haunting notes of the hymns of…

Are you right-brained or left-brained?

One of the dumber questions around.

I think it’s safe to say that if you only had one hemisphere of your brain, you wouldn’t be functioning.

Of course, that’s not the point. But the real point is little more sensible. The whole idea…

Humans have a long tradition of holding genes responsible for individual differences in behavior (of course, we called it "blood", then, or "family"). In the 20th century, a counter-belief arose: that it was all down to environment, to upbringing. In more recent decades, we have become…

"I'm terrible at remembering names"

"I'm great with names, but I'm hopeless at remembering what I've read."

"I always remember what people tell me about themselves, but I'm always forgetting birthdays and anniversaries."

There is no such thing as a poor…

Widely cited gender differences in cognition

It is clear that there are differences between the genders in terms of cognitive function; it is much less clear that there are differences in terms of cognitive abilities. Let me explain what I mean by that.

It's commonly understood that…

Intelligence in a cultural context

One theory of intelligence sees intelligence in terms of adaptiveness. Thus: "What constitutes intelligence depends upon what the situation demands" (Tuddenham 1963). Intelligence in these terms cannot be understood outside of its cultural context. Naturally…

Short-term vs long-term memory

Working memory is a relatively recent term, a refinement of an older concept - that of short-term memory. Short-term memory was called thus to distinguish it from "long-term memory" - your memory store.

One important difference between the idea of short-…

Does emotion help us remember? That's not an easy question to answer, which is unsurprising when you consider the complexities of emotion.

First of all, there are two, quite different, elements to this question. The first concerns the emotional content of the information you want to…

Brain tissue is divided into two types: gray matter and white matter. These names derive very simply from their appearance to the naked eye. Gray matter is made up of the cell bodies of nerve cells. White matter is made up of the long filaments that extend from the cell bodies - the "telephone…

"Consolidation" is a term that is bandied about a lot in recent memory research. Here's my take on what it means.

Becoming a memory

Initially, information is thought to be encoded as patterns of neural activity — cells "talking" to each other. Later, the information is coded in more…