(Note: This is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the Spanish Memorization eBook).
How the brain works
Think of the brain as a file cabinet. A certain part of the brain stores each file in its memory.
How does the brain make memories?
How the brain makes memories is quite fascinating when we take certain parts of the brain apart. There are three separate stages in the brain to help you make memories. The three stages to help you make memories are sensory memory, short term memory (working memory), and long-term memory.
What determines where the memory is stored?
In order for the brain to memorize something, it has to go through a process. The process itself depends on the learner.
For example, if the learner is trying to memorize something instantaneously that was given to them written down or spoken (i.e. phone number, order number, directions, etc.), the brain stores the memory in its sensory memory.
If the learner is repeatedly trying to memorize something in an organized format (i.e. a math formula, the alphabet, the days of the week, etc.), the brain will store the memory in its working memory.
Lastly, if the learner has a memory that has been memorized over a long period of time (i.e. how to drive a car, how to dress, or how to brush your teeth), these memories have been practiced over a long period of time and the brain stores them in its long-term memory.
Sensory memory is the first stage in the memory-making process. It is the shortest stage in the memory-making process because memory lasts for a second. In this memory stage, the capacity to remember information is very large. The ears and the eyes help receive information from the sensory memory before it passes along to the next phase in the memory-making process.
Working memory is the second stage in the memory-making process. It has a very small capacity, and to get information into this memory stage it has to be very organized.
When information travels from the ears, the sounds from the words we hear create a verbal model. Also, the images that we see with our eyes are organized into a pictorial model too.
For example, if someone gives you a phone number to remember, the number is 10-digits long. The phone number has an area code and seven digits. How you choose to memorize the information is up to you.
The key here is that the working memory has to organize information before it can be stored in long-term memory.
When the working memory organizes information, the brain then stores the information in the brain’s long-term memory. This portion of the brain’s storage capacity is very large and it can last for many years.
For example, if I ask you to recall a memory from one of your early childhood years, you probably could because this is something that your brain has stored in its long-term memory.