Short term memory is what I use when I think about what I ate for breakfast this morning, who called me last night, and which pajamas I wore to bed. Short term memory is just all of my collected thoughts that occurred recently, right? Wrong.
Short term memory actually has a duration that lasts no longer than twenty seconds! It only retains information for a very limited time.
I don't think I'm the only one who has made this mistake. In fact, I asked 12 people to tell me what comes to their mind when they think of their short term memory - 4 of them mentioned their breakfasts and 2 others described events that took place hours prior to the present time! They were completely inaccurate, just like I initially was. All of them were pretty astounded with my explanation of their mistakes.
I told them all that short term memory is the second system for retaining information in our memories for brief periods of time. It represents our ability to hold onto information we're currently thinking about and processing through the first system of memory, iconic memory. I told them the duration of short term memory is only 5 to 20 seconds! It took a while for them to wrap their heads around that conclusion.
If, and only if we process our short term memories thoroughly, they make it to the third and final system of memory - long term memory. So when I think about it, what I ate for breakfast this morning, who called me last night, and which pajamas I wore to bed were more important events that I realized! Each one of these seemingly minute details in my day was actually encoded, processed, and stored in my memory.
Thinking about this made me realize how large our brain's capacities really are. Scientifically, there is no way to know how vast our memory storage is. The memory process in itself is pretty amazing to me.