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How can a person remember something?

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The human brain is not a memory in which you can simply put something, i.e. the memory does not function according to the principle of a safe in which you can store your information, but rather according to the principle of an orchestra in which all the musicians have to play together for a piece of music, i.e. when a memory is retrieved from the memory, the various centers with their nerve cells have to work together for this.

In order for an impression to be retrieved as a memory at all and not to disappear again immediately, it has to pass through several stages, i.e. almost everything that one experiences, perceives, sees, hears or smells leaves traces in the brain, but this does not mean that it will be remembered later, because in order to be able to remember something in the long term, the information has to enter the long-term memory. To do this, it must pass through various other regions of the brain: First, the information – be it a snippet of conversation with a neighbor or the taste of a drink – enters ultra-short-term memory for a few seconds. If it is classified as relevant there, it passes into short-term memory and from there finally into long-term memory, provided it is not selected. Not everything gets stuck in the long-term memory, but it is an important first step.

So if you want to remember something, you have to strive for that one piece of information to somehow make it into our long-term memory, with the hippocampus organizing this transition into long-term memory, which happens mainly at night when you sleep. Despite this, a person cannot consciously decide to remember the date of a friend’s birthday, however, information is more likely to be retained in memory if you can link it to the network you already have, so those who know more remember additional information more easily.

If you want to retain something in the long term, you have to consciously link information to existing knowledge again and again and try to apply newly acquired knowledge or additional information immediately, e.g., by talking about it with someone, writing it down, or solving a problem with it. Ideally, the memory falls back on it the next day, because then the chances are good that the information can still be retrieved by the human memory for a long time.

In particular, memories associated with emotions remain retrievable for a long time, and information with a strong ego reference is also much more likely to be stored than information without direct personal interest. Human memory always stores content with a certain emotionality, because if the information is associated with something positive, the entire memory takes on a positive flavor, while of course something that ends negatively tends to be remembered negatively. Positive memories are important above all because they form the basis for how one looks to the future, because memory decides how one looks to the future, whether with hope and anticipation or with despair and frustration.