Importance of Natural Resources

Retrieval cues | Processing the Environment | MCAT | Khan Academy


So anytime you call up a memory
or try to think of something you learned before,
you are engaging in an act of retrieval. And successful retrieval
can depend on your ability to use the cues that
are present around you and recognize the
association between cues present at encoding and
cues present at retrieval. The best types of cues
are the associations that form when you’re
initially encoding, and sometimes you might not
even be aware of these things. So for example, priming
is the activation of certain associations
and memory, even though you’re
not aware of them. For instance, if you were to
read a story about rabbits, and you saw that
word over and over, then if I were to pronounce the
word hair later on, you would probably write down hare,
H-A-R-E, meaning rabbit, instead of hair, H-A-I-R, the
reason being that your memory of rabbit, even though you’re
not consciously thinking about this story, would prime you or
prepare your brain to associate the rabbit definition of
hare, rather than any other association that might
come up from that sound. Another type of retrieval
cue involves the context. And this is just the
environment in which you encode and in which you take the test. For example, a while
ago, they did a study where they had scuba
divers learn information under the water or on
land, and then later they could be tested in
the water or on land. And people who learned and
were tested in the same place scored better than if they
learned in one location and were tested in another. So this is one example of
context dependent memory, which when you’re retrieving
information, being in the same
environment that you encoded that information
is really helpful. However, that’s not
always the case. If you know it’s not going
to be possible to, say, study in the same room that you take
the test in, what you can do is study in multiple places. So maybe you study
in your house, and you can study outside at
the park or at a coffee shop, and all of these
different places then will provide different
cues for retrieval. So when you go to take the
test in some other location, then you will have not just
one set of cues, but multiple, and that will actually help
you, even if you’ve never studied in this test
location before, it will help you remember more
in that new location because of the variety of
retrieval cues you’ve developed by studying
in multiple locations. Another type of
retrieval cue involves state-dependent memory. So the state can
refer to your mood, or it can refer to any
other internal state, how you are at the moment. And one type of state could
be a state of intoxication. So, just a disclaimer,
learning anything drunk is a bad idea because alcohol
disrupts storage and encoding processes and all that. But if you do learn
something when you’re drunk, you’ll remember it
better the next time you’re drunk than
if you’re sober. And the reason is
that being drunk provides an internal
retrieval cue to your brain, so the next time
you’re drunk, it’s easier to remember
what you encoded in that same previous state. However, learning things sober
and retrieving things sober is much, much better for
learning, so let’s not do that. Other than state of
intoxication, your mood can actually be a cue for
state-dependent memory too. So, for example, when
you’re sad or angry, you’re more likely to remember
other times that you’ve been sad or angry,
and you’re more likely to think of other
things that make you upset. Now this can be one
reason that depression can be such terrible
cycle, because when you’re already depressed
and feeling down, you’re more likely to think
of other reasons to be down and more likely to
think of other times when you’ve been depressed. By the same token,
however, when you’re happy, you’re more likely to
think of other times that you’ve been happy or
more likely to interpret other events in a happy
light, in a positive light. And you are more likely to
remember things that you first encoded when you were
in that same mood. And you can see this
in advertisements. They’ll associate a certain
product with a certain mood. And so the next time
you see that product, it’s more likely to be a
retrieval cue for a happy mood, and then you’re more
likely to buy it. So now you know a little
bit about retrieval and the kinds of cues that
can either promote or impair your ability to
remember something.


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