This is a very basic look at the three processes of memory. There is a massive amount of highly technical information about this topic, and there are also many things we don't yet have a full understanding of. This just scratches the surface.
Encoding: The brain encodes when it receives sensory information. Short-term memories are not retained. Long-term memories are strengthened by the power of the perceived event and by repetition. Encoding can happen in four ways:
- Visual encoding—what we see.
- Auditory encoding—what we hear.
- Tactile encoding—what we touch.
- Semantic encoding—information we encode based on particular meanings or contexts.
Storage: Once encoding is complete, we have a memory stored in our brain. It is thought that a memory is not necessarily stored in just one place, but in multiple places in the brain, possibly to make it easier to avoid losing memories. The memory is stored in the form of neurons that behave in a way that recreates the original event—making us “remember” it.
Recall: Also sometimes called “retrieval,” this is the process of accessing the information that has been stored in our brains in the form of long-term memories. There are two ways to access memories: recognition (as when you see a familiar object or person, then remember what or who it is), and recall (as when you remember a fact or information you do not currently have before you). When we forget something or lose a memory, it is thought by many scientists that the recall process has failed, rather than the storage process.