When your short-term memory is shoddy

You are running late for an important meeting but cannot remember where you put your car keys. It is frustrating for you, as you cannot afford to be late. Now you are wondering if you should just give up the search and call a cab. Just as you are about to dial the number, you remember that you did not check the pockets of the pants you wore the previous day. Ahhh, here they are. Another crisis avoided.

It may seem like no big deal, but for too many of us, our short-term memory is spotty at best, and it seems to get worse as we age. Why is it we can recall the beating we got for eating out the Milo at age five, but cannot remember what we had for breakfast the day before? How can we remember our high school graduation song lyric for lyric but cannot recollect what handbag we used on the weekend of our friend’s wedding? Why is our short-term memory so shaky?

Before you go researching signs of dementia, stop panicking and get practical in your approach. The fact is that the human capacity for remembering stuff is not only complicated, but it differs from one individual to the next, and no one, absolutely no one has perfect memory.

So, what causes some things to stand out for us and others to fade like a fart in the wind? One study conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) revealed that one’s memory may be linked to how meaningful an image is to us and if we can connect it to other knowledge. If it is possible, then it increases the probability of recall later on. The more connections and relatable material stored in our brain, the more the memories become lasting.

Our memory can also fade when it involves something we do not like or something that was traumatic for us. Children who experienced extreme forms of child abuse tend to shut down or compartmentalise their memory bank and simply lock away certain events or actions because of what is associated with them.

On the flip side, things that are positive or evoke feelings of nostalgia often have us reminiscing about the beautiful, exciting or tasty details, even if at times we exaggerate them in our minds and make them greater and larger than they really were. This then explains why we have no real vested interest in recalling the details of last week’s board meeting, as it held no positive connection for us, neither was it something we even cared to attend in the first place. As soon as we stepped through the door, we forgot most of it. 

Our short-term memory may suck which is why some brilliant individual created the post-it.

— Written by C.W.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of BUZZ or its employees.