Learning and memory

Learning and memory

The ‘ learning and memory are two complex functions and closely related; memory is the ability to process, store and retrieve information through specific coding and recovery strategies.

Therefore, in order for the mnemonic process to take place, the following information must be recorded, the retention, the consolidation of the trace and finally the recovery of this. It follows that memory is not simply a repository of data, but is a complex process that does not end in a passive reception of content.

Short-term memory and long-term memory

It is possible to distinguish: a short-term memory , a system capable of storing a limited number of information for short periods of time.

Long-term memory , a system capable of storing an unlimited number of information for unlimited periods of time, which is processed, activated and processed. It is further divided into: declarative memory and non-declarative memory.

Declarative memory

Declarative memory, or all those contents that, once surfaced in the mind, can be expressed verbally. It is possible to distinguish: episodic memory, in which there is a memory with a spatio-temporal and figural reference, and semantic memory, in which there is a memory without precise temporal and spatial references.

Non-declarative memory

Non-declarative memory, or all those memories that can be detected only through the manifest behavior of the subject.

It is possible to distinguish: procedural memory , assigned to learning motor, perceptual and cognitive skills, and the perceptual-representational system, assigned to learning perceptual skills at the pre-semantic level, for the recognition of words and objects therefore, memory has a highly adaptive function as it allows the individual to use what has been learned during previous experiences for understanding and solving current problems.

Furthermore, its role is fundamental for the development and continuity of many cognitive processes, including perception, learning, thinking and language.

The ‘ learning is, however, that the change in the process or potential concrete behavior of an individual in relation to his experience. It results from the interaction of motivation, emotion, memory and , therefore, cannot be reduced to a sterile mechanism of assimilation of contents.

Over the course of time several theories have been developed:

Tripartite theory of Atkinson and Shiffrin

The transition from a phase of acquisition, therefore of real learning, to one of re-enactment, which presupposes the persistence of memory, is articulated by Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968), exponents of Human Information Processing , a cognitive derivative approach, the whose unifying assumption is that the functioning of the computer constitutes the functioning model of the human mind.

They proposed the tripartite theory of memory which functionally divided memory into three modules, with different amplitudes and durations, and containing specific types of content: – The sensory system which has a capacity limited to a few seconds and retains stimuli from the sense organs

In this regard, the experiments of Sperling (1960) are famous , who tried to evaluate how many visual elements could be seen in a short interval of time.

He presented the subjects with a 3X3 table, consisting of three rows and three columns for a total of 9 squares, for only 50 milliseconds and asked them to recall as many letters as possible.

With this so-called total report technique, people were able to recall no more than 4 or 5 of the 9 letters submitted, but claimed to have seen more letters than they could recover. Sperling, therefore, decided to use the partial report technique, with which the subjects were asked to report only a part of the letters, indicated by a special acoustic signal.

The number of letters recalled depended on the interval between the presentation of the table and the emission of the acoustic signal: if it was issued immediately afterwards, the subjects remembered all the letters; if, on the other hand, it was longer, the named letters decreased.

From these researches Sperling confirmed the existence of a rapidly decaying sensory system, where the information is coded in the same form as the original stimulus. In particular, iconic memory is defined, the sensory register of the visual modality, and ecoic memory of the auditory modality.

The sensory registers

From the sensory registers, the information is sent to a second warehouse consisting of Short-Term Memory, with limited capacity capable of containing, according to Miller, 7 more or less two elements for about 10 seconds.

Finally, the latter warehouse communicates with long-term memory, equipped with extended capacity and duration.

Long-term memory

It contains two types of information:

  • declarative, consisting of explicit propositions, thoughts and memories;
  • procedural, consisting of methods of execution of an action

Note the crucial importance of the role played by the short-term warehouse which, for its functions, has also been called working memory.

In fact, it recognizes, processes, transforms information so that it can be conserved and reused to understand and recognize new information.

It is also assumed that the deliberate action of repetition of information belongs to MBT, a process by which information is kept in MBT for a time necessary to be transferred to long-term memory.

And it is precisely in this last step that learning can be said to be memorized, becoming a personal patrimony that tends to be stable.

On the one hand, memorization is a controllable and planning process that presupposes clear learning, on the other, learning, in order to become firm and lasting, avoiding being reduced to an extemporaneous understanding of content, must be followed by memorization.

So the relationship between learning and memorization processes turns out to be circular: Flavell’s metacognition.

The relationship between learning and memory was also analyzed in the 70s by Flavell who studied the metacognitive functions in depth. They consist in coordinating, guiding and monitoring one’s own learning path, but also in arranging and allocating the right amount of attention and mnemonic resources.

They are, therefore, competences for regulating one’s own learning activity, superordinate to the cognitive ones and for this defined “metacognitive”. In fact, it is considered the key competence for effective learning, which optimizes learning times and methods.

In this process, memorization, considered a preliminary element of optimal learning, arises precisely from how the comprehension phases were carried out, or from how the material was actively structured and reworked: learning, in fact, must persist for a long time so that we can recall it when necessary.