Do you remember the name of the teacher that taught you mathematics in 1st grade? Maybe not. But you do remember the count 1, 2, 3….and so on, that you learned in 1st grade? Yes of course because it is stored in your brain, more specifically, your memory. The same memory doesn’t remember the teacher’s name, but it remembers what he/she taught. This is how memory plays tricks on us, and we forget things. But how to make sure that you remember what you want to remember?
One can best understand how the memory works by watching Disney Pixar animated cartoon movie ‘inside out’. The story of the movie ‘inside out’ is about a girl named Riley who has various emotions inside her. That includes joy, sadness, happiness, disgust, anger, and fear. These emotions are shown by animated cartoon characters in the movie, and they control Riley’s actions, feelings, and memory.
These emotions live and control Riley from a place that they call the headquarters. The memories of Riley travel from a tube in form of glowing round balls from the headquarters to the personality islands where they are stored forever.
Riley goes through a rough patch in her teenage years when her family moves to another place and she finds it hard to adjust there. One day, while trying to make happy memories for Riley, her emotions ‘joy’ and ‘sadness’ get stuck into a memory tube that carried the memory balls from headquarters to the personality islands. So, joy and sadness accidentally arrive at the islands.
The arrival follows an adventure of joy and sadness with Riley’s memories. They find that some of her childhood memories are still there but can’t reach Riley because those are too old. Like an old imaginary friend of Riley’s named Bing Bong who fades into memory dump. A memory dump is shown as a place where old memories get discarded and forgotten. Before fading, Bing Bong tells them that they can go back to headquarters by riding the train of thoughts.
Because of Riley’s mixed emotions and frustration in the new home, the personality islands crumble, and her long-term memories start to get destroyed by falling into the memory dump. Fast forward, joy and sadness manage to come back to the headquarters and save the day for Riley and her personality islands.
Although the movie focuses on emotions a very interesting part of it was the accidental arrival of joy and sadness on the memory islands. Some important memory facts are shown amazingly by Pixar. But the first thing one needs to know is that human memory is like computer memory. It can store everything and sometimes things also get deleted, sometimes stuff gets lost in folders and documents and it is hard to retrieve it.
Just like a computer memory has memory drives where we store data, and we save the data on different drives after deciding if we need it for a long or a short time, the human brain also has stages where memory is stored.
The two most important ones are short-term memory and long-term memory. In short-term memory, information is stored just for 30 seconds and then forgotten. But the information that lasts more than 30 seconds because we repeat it in our head or we recall it often, goes to the long-term memory.
The personality islands in the movie depict how long-term memories can shape a person’s personality. The appearance of ‘Bing Bong’ shows that even long-term memories can fade and sooner or later forgotten. We or some people that we meet in our daily life seem to forget things more often than other people who remember almost everything. Forgetfulness isn’t a characteristic that is only seen in adults, but children are also a victim of it, particularly in exam season. Yes, I am referring to the days when you were on the verge of smacking your head on books in childhood while trying to memorize or recall mathematics formulas. It can be because of two reasons. Firstly, sometimes we just skim through our exam content. That skimming mostly does not even last 30 seconds, and therefore, is not stored in the long-term memory. Secondly, we don’t recall what is already stored in our long-term memory and thus it fades, and it gets difficult to retrieve it from our brain land.
In conclusion, next time when you want to remember something for a longer time, follow these two easy steps;
- Memorize it for more than 30 seconds so that it can go into the long-term memory.
- Revise and recall it often 😊