The ability to learn and remember is critical for a meaningful existence. Almost every single facet of our thinking process and results manifested as behaviors relies heavily on learning. Alternatively, learning is central to the daily functioning of the human organism. Humans continually need to gather information, store them and use that memory to behave adaptively based on past experiences. Learning is descriptively simple, yet not so simple when analyzed from a scholarly perspective. Some of the most oft-used definitions are; i. It is a relatively permanent change in human or animal behavior resulting from practice.
This definition opines that for an aspect to be regarded as learning, then the change that occurs as a result of the learning process must be relatively permanent. This implies that learning should not be occasioned by a transient reaction to stimuli but rather it should be occasioned by practice. This behavior is most accepted by behaviorists and it has also maintained its residence in psychology introduction texts. ii. It is the acquisition of knowledge: factual information, and skills-coordination of perceptions and actions. iii. It is the process of generating enduring internal representations.
This generation process is experience dependent. A representation in this case defines an information that denotes specific world understanding in the nervous system, and lastly; iv. Learning can also be described as a process involving the increase of knowledge or skills by human beings. As knowledge grows so does its organization in storage and behaviors (Howard 1995). All these definitions are but commonalities and the most crucial determinant of the learning process is the lasting transformation brought about by information storage and inference: memory.
Learning is a gradual process rather than instantaneous. In most cases learning causes an improvement in an organism. Therefore, while learning is concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and skills, memory which is the information stored in the nervous system preserves such information for future use. Memory can last a few seconds or a lifetime. Without memory there would be no need to conduct the learning process. These two are so closely linked and entirely dependent on each other, in fact they are interlocked. For instance, what is already resident in memory determines or limits what is to be acquired.
The essentialist nature of memory on learning is indisputable since in the absence of storage and retrieval of information acquired there can not be any record of learning. Memory is basically the permanent or temporary record of the learning process. Memory models behavior because it can be inferred upon through retrievals. These retrievals provide a framework not only of the existing information stored but also links information stored to novel information acquisition. Apart from being associative, it is also a reconstruction. Memory has been said to be the quintessence of experience.
Experience is the stimulant of progress. Therefore without memory, there is no record of experience and without experience human beings cannot make any progress nor develop a unique personal identity. Traditional psychology initially placed the beginning of memory at the age of three years based on observational understanding that human beings below that age cannot be said to possess the capacity to consciously recall events below that age. However, current research evidence states otherwise. From the first years of birth and even in the prenatal period, memory exists.
There are cases where some children have been found to spontaneously store considerable information about birth events even though the expression of these events is delayed until the development of speech. Before speech development children are able to express their memories through non verbal ways such as the drawing of pictures, pointing to body locations, mimicking authentic sounds from instruments such as suction devices and using pantomime to act out scenes. These observations undoubtedly point to the existence of memory as early as can be observed in life.
Research has established that due to the passage of sound into the womb, newly born children are able to recall and identify with particular rhymes that mothers consciously or subconsciously repeat during the pregnancy period. From the gestational period of sixteen weeks, children start learning their native language. Taste and olfaction were until recently thought to require an input of air for successful perception. However, evidence of learning and memory of taste and olfaction have been critically analyzed and conclusively confirmed to begin during the gestational period (Chamberlain 1995).
In humans, memory is not a unitary process. At the psychological level, several types are in simultaneous operation. This difference defines the criterion employed in the classification of memory. Memory can be classified as short term, long term and sensory memory. Sensory memory is concerned with the articulation and storage of information originating from the senses. Sensory memory is usually brief and last from a few hundred milliseconds to just one or two seconds. This duration defines what is referred to as perception.
Nonetheless, sensory memory represents the initial step in short term memory information storage. Short term memory stores records of succession events in life. Such information will usually be removed from storage unless there is a conscious effort to retain it. Just like sensory memory builds up to short term memory, short term memory also builds up to long term memory where significant events defining human life are stored. Short term memory has limited storage space usually enough to store seven items which increases from one memory space at three years and progresses until the capacity of seven is attained.
However, it is a developmental process and as an individual gets older so does the spaces for short term memory increase. Working memory is a subsection of short term memory located in the prefrontal cortex where it assists in the formation of long term memory. Long term memory assists in the retention of skills and knowledge acquired. Unlike sensory or short term memory its storage is unlimited and the duration of storage may last for as few as days or last for an entire lifetime. Long term memory can either be declarative(explicit) or non declarative (implicit).
As storage continues so does, better reorganization and improvement on the information stored. All these categorizations of memory are distinct in operation but cooperatively make the process of memorization efficient and complete. Non declarative memory is procedural and is concerned with the storage and memorization of processes that need not be verbalized. Processes such as riding a bike, eating and other normal human activities are included in procedural memory. On the other hand, declarative memory defines those aspects of the learning process that can be verbalized.
Categorized as episodic: memory oriented to location and semantic: word memory these categories can either be short term or working memory. These descriptions are interchangeably used even though they provide little help in understanding how information gained in the learning process is stored in the brain. The latter is done using novel and highly advanced technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography scans. Through these technologies storage and retrieval can be analyzed in reference to the tasks being performed (Sprenger 1999).
With fresh discoveries of more storage areas in the brain, neuroscientists are assisting educators with such information for use in memory and learning process. It has been demonstrated that on the onset of the learning process, there are five specific lanes of memory that are located in the brain. These areas have been labeled and the rate of memory storage has a direct effect on the learning process. During learning, billions of neurons communicate and the information generated is stored in specific memory sites.
On the basis of the specificity of memory storage and retrieval during the learning process, models and strategies have been developed to improve the efficiency of information retrieval and storage in the learning process. Learning is the most important component of all education systems. In the world today every single task necessary for the social, cultural, political or economical improvement requires an enhancement in the learning level. This is true for all types’ members of the population. From children to adults, the learning process must involve an interaction of the five basic senses.
For instance, in the acquisition of information regarding the meaning of verbal or non verbal or non verbal components of learning such as characters, letters, faces, music, numbers, words, symbols, tastes as well as odors, all senses must be put in attentive participation(Izawa & Ohta 2005). When learning the motor skills that are essential in everyday lives such as the manipulation of the complex and simple devices and instruments used in daily life, not only perception accruing from senses is important but also the storage of information learned.
References Chamberlain, B. David. (2005). Prenatal Memory and Learning. Life Before Birth. http://www. birthpsychology. com/lifebefore/earlymem. html Izawa, Chizuko & Ohta, Nobuo. (2005). Human Learning and Memory: Advances in Theory and Application : the 4th Tsukuba International Conference on Memory. Routledge Press. p. i-4 Howard, W. Robert. (1995). Learning and Memory: Major Ideas, Principles, Issues and Applications. Greenwood Publishing Group. Sprenger, Marilee. (1999). Learning and Memory: The Brain in Action. ASCD.