long and short term memorywhat part of memory do you feel to be the most important,long term or short term. Do you think you can function without one or the other?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question, with good responses. But there is a physiological aspect to this that I think makes it impossible for us to be fully human without both kinds of memory.  As I understand the process, we cannot have long-term memory without either strong emotion or repetition.  In order to create long-term memories, we must have some short-term memories to convert to long-term memories through one of those processes. 

Similarly, I do not believe we are capable of learning anything without having both.  In order for us to learn anything, we must be able to connect the short-term to what is already present in the long-term.  This is a literal connection through neurons and their electro-chemical processes. This is why a child who is truly a blank slate would be unable to learn. 

The very fact that this inquiry can be made and considered is evidence that we cannot function without both! 

booksnmore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's a pretty scary thought. It seems like an absence of short term memory would put you in immediate danger: forgetting to turn off the stove, losing your house/keys/car/loved ones, forgetting that the burner was just on and is still hot, etc. But the absence of long term memory somehow seems more tragic...to forget the moments spent with people that you love...or to forget the people themselves. Isn't that one of the reasons that Alzheimers is so terrible? When you lose your memory, you lose yourself...you lose what it is that makes you, YOU.

lynn30k eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question reminded me of the movie, 50 First Dates; the main character can't retain memory from one day to the next, and another can't remember anything past 10 seconds! Long and short term are both vital; you can't have long-term memory without first remembering things short term. I guess you could function without long-term memory, but not very well. Your job possiblities would be quite limited, and relationships wouldn't be very easy, either if you couldn't remember things that are important to others.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Short term memory often becomes long term memory.  While short term is certainly important for our everyday lives as the post above argues, long term memory often has a larger effect on our lives.

It becomes very difficult to have a quality life without either kind of memory, but since there is no long term memory without short term memory, I guess if I had to choose I'd keep my short term.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both are terribly important, but I would think that short term memory is more important to daily life, at least.

If you have no short term memory, you are much more likely to do harm to yourself.  For example, if you go out somewhere and cannot find your way home, you might actually die, depending on the circumstances.  This sometimes happens to people with Alzheimers.

besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the previous that both are equally important. There are instances when people lack one or the other and their lives are incredibly difficult. Long term memory allows us to remember vital skills that were learned early in life but short term memory is just as important.

This question reminds me of the movie "50 First Dates."

lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not sure you can say one is more important than the other. Without the short term memory can anything ever go into long term memory? I would think that family members of those suffering from Alzheimers would have a better idea of how these memories work together.

ako6777 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To store information in your long term memory you must first pass the information through your short term memory.  Without one you wouln'd have the other. Due to this they are both extremely important for information processing.

giorgiana1976 | Student

Both are equally important. People can not live a normal life without any of these types of memories . 

epollock | Student

Long term memory is obviously the most important. Just think about calling relatives and the phone numbers you have already in your long term register. How about birthdays and holidays? Without it, you would need a great deal of notebooks.