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The Power of Memory: What’s The Deal?

Here at Iternal, memories are kind of a big deal. We understand that memory is integral to the human experience; but how and why? Starting this week, Remi from the Iternal Team will be delving into some serious science to look at just how important our memories are and the potential power stored in them.

What’s So Important About Memories?

Our memories make up who we are; individuals moulded by unique experiences. They shape us; allow us to make sense of who we are; help us understand the world we’re in and also how we anticipate the future.

It’s how we learn: from picking up languages; embodying culture; to developing social skills and a sense of morals. 

Over time, memories help us distinguish ‘right’ from ‘wrong’.

It’s also how we feel. Have you ever been completely overpowered by a sense of nostalgia? For a brief moment, you are taken back to a time long past; you feel – in nearly every sense of the word – exactly how you felt then; your perspective changes; your senses shift so you can almost taste the past.

What about that one song you can’t bring yourself to listen to anymore, for fear of the emotions that are attached to it? Or the smell of a perfume that never fails to bring a certain someone to mind?

The Different Types of memory

Now, most people know that we have two types of memory; long and short term – but what about the rest? It may be no surprise that memory (at our current understanding) is a bit more complex than these variations. 

Personal, specific memories are referred to as ‘episodic memory’; a term first coined by Endel Tulving  (a pioneer in the modern study of memory and a source for much of the information we’ll draw on). Episodic memories are unique to us and have been ‘filtered’ through our personal experience.

Factual, general knowledge and non-personal events are grouped under ‘semantic memory’, which consists of the sort of things you learn in school and are unlikely to change regardless of how you experienced them.

The knowledge gained from reading an encyclopedia would be stored in your semantic memory.

The mix of both episodic and semantic make up our ‘autobiographical memory’ – which makes up part of our ‘declarative memory’ (or explicit memory) – itself a part of our long-term memory… *phew*. Not only does this part of our mind allow us to ground our understanding of the world and stabilize our sense of identity, but it also gives us a bit of a super power: ‘mental time travel’.

In a sense we are constantly building a catalogue of information; information that allows us to reflect on the past and learn from our experiences. From here we are able to anticipate and predict future events, how we might get there and how we might behave when we do. Pretty cool, right? We could go on, but we’ll save some of the mind-blowing stuff for another post…

The Potential in the Power

Though our modern understanding is still pretty fresh, one thing is for sure: there is undeniable power in our memories. Imagine if we could harness that power and use them to our advantage?! Well, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Now we have some of the fundamental bits covered, we can start to look at some of the exciting ways scientists and researchers are pushing the boundaries. Keep your eyes open for upcoming posts where we explore the incredible potential our memories hold and the benefits that could bring to our mind, body and well-being.

In the meantime, how about adding some of those nostalgic moments to your Iternal timeline? They make some of the best memories! And you never know, you might soon find out there’s some real benefits to having those moments organised and accessible.

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