The human capacity for memory is unknown, and the process for remembering is an invisible, and therefore, an unsubstantiated concept. A discussion regarding the concepts of short-term, working, and long-term memory precedes an explanation of the encoding and retrieval in the memory processes. An evaluation of the variables associated with encoding and retrieval provides an understanding of the results from an online self-administered memory test. Although online memory assessments provide an entertaining experience, the concept of memory and the factors influencing memory are too complex to depend on such assessments and individuals questioning their memory related abilities should seek the guidance of a health professional.
Psychology and neuroscience theorize that the human brain uses three different memory systems to function. Long-term, short-term, and working memory function in concert to form a complex system that facilitates sensory processing, problem solving, encoding, and retrieval. Information that finds its way to long-term memory references events from the distant past. Sort term memory holds recent events. The theoretical memory readily available and actively working to enable the individual as he strives to understand the complexity of a problem and the simplest solution is working memory.
Memory is not as simple as a room full of file cards or video clips that the individual can pull out as needed. It is a concept of how the mind works when humans process information and solve problems. However, there is a widely accepted theory that this functioning occurs specifically in the prefrontal cortex. This concept, expressed by Jacobsen (1936) began when he noted that short-term memory lapses correlated with damage to the prefrontal cortex in primates. More recently, Funahashi, Chafee, and Goldman-Rakic, (1993) deliberately induced short-term memory loss in primates by temporarily inactivating portions of their prefrontal cortex. In addition, Wang, Vijayraghavan, Goldman-Rakic, (2004) further established the prefrontal cortex as the location of working memory using neuroimaging to assert the engagement of prefrontal neurons when primates conducted working memory related tasks.
Short-term memory has significant limitations in both rate of forgetting (duration) and memory span (number of items the individual can remember). Humans use short-term memory to hold pieces of information for relatively short periods. Without rehearsal, the information is quickly lost and irretrievable. In fact, without rehearsal, information is forgotten within 30 seconds, and memory span for the average person is about 7 items or a phone number without the area code (Terry, 2009). That does not mean it is impossible to retain a phone number with and area code in short-term memory. Other factors influence short-term and working memory.
The speed at which the individual can pronounce and retrieve the list of items is...