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Information Processing: Encoding, Storage & Retrieval

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  • 0:00 Encoding
  • 1:26 Storage
  • 2:16 Retrieval
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Bautista
How does your brain remember information and recall it later? In this lesson, you'll look at the steps your brain takes as it processes data from short-term memory and stores it as long-term memory.

Memory allows you to store and recall information and experiences, but it's also a highly abstract concept. To help you think about memory in concrete terms, psychologists have devised a system for dividing it into three processes:

  1. Encoding
  2. Storage
  3. Retrieval

Encoding

The first process that your brain performs when it gets new information is encoding. Compare your brain to a computer. When data is entered into a computer, it's encoded or put into a format that the computer can store. Take digital images, for example. In the computer, an image is actually encoded in a grid of colored dots called pixels. This special format allows the computer to store images.

Now, think about how information is converted into a format that your brain can store. Look at that same image. Your brain is different from a computer, so you probably won't encode it into a grid of colored dots. Instead, you might focus on the colors and sort them into warm and cold colors. Alternatively, since your brain can do things that no computer can do, you may encode the information in the image in a way that's meaningful to you. You may relate the scene to a park on a river that you've visited yourself. By associating the image with a similar scene, you make it easier to organize the information in the picture. These are ways that you encode information in your brain for storage.

Storage

Once information is encoded, it can be stored. While you're still using it, the information is stored in your computer's RAM, which is used only for short-term storage. This is like your brain's short-term memory. When you save the file, it's like putting the information in long-term memory, which is like the brain's hard drive. The information stored in RAM will not be there after you reboot your computer. But the hard drive is like your long-term memory, and the information is there permanently.

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