I've GOT IT! ~ Short vs. Long Term Memory
Short Term vs. Long Term Memory
Have you experienced seeing someone at the grocery store and can’t place where you know them from, but you know you have had some dealings with them. A week later you take your kid to the doctor for a checkup and see the receptionist is the person you saw at the grocery store. Instantly, you make the connection. It’s likely if you had several visits to the doctor over the years, you would have made the connection immediately in the supermarket. However (and fortunately), since your visits are infrequent, this is a short-term memory experience.
You may have also encountered a situation where someone seems familiar, but you can’t quite place the face. Later, you realized it was someone you went to high school with over 20 years ago. In this situation, you are employing your long-term memory.
It’s believed that house pets like cats and dogs do not have long-term memories. This may be why their offspring can be taken away from them without too much emotional trauma. However, there have been cases where pets have been able to find their original owners after being lost for some time. This, even after some owners move to unknown locations. It seems implausible for them to not have long-term memories, at least in some capacity.
There have also been cases of tiger cubs who were raised by humans and later set out in the wild. Several years after their release, they recognize the humans and react in a positive and loving manner. Short or long term memory?
But, what exactly determines which is a short-term and long-term memory? In areas of life outside of the subject of memory, anything less than one year is considered short-term while anything longer than that is designated as long-term. Can this same distinction be made when referring to memory? Sometimes we forget something we just learned, like someone's name, just 5-minutes ago!! So, the terms 'short term' and 'long term' as they relate to memory really have no definite lengths of time. If it were as simple as drawing a line in the sand with a specific amount of time, do you think it would be easy or more difficult to remember something? Hhmmm... Interesting to think about! Most sources agree that to remember something successfully, we should 'use' it, revisit it and / or talk about it more often, and so on -- regardless of how long ago we initially learned it. Remember the old adage "you don't use it, you lose it!"? It appears to be fair to say that old saying pertains to memory too, spot on!
There are many sources, including those within the neuroscience field, that claim 28 days is the path to having something stick; to creating a habit. Does this mean that if you stopped at the 27th day, you would forget everything learned during those days? Of course, not; that's a silly thought. It’s a good chance that would not happen, and that is why you cannot put a specific date to short or long term memory or learning, for that matter. Each person has specific ways of learning -- and each person values what they've learned differently. Each person's value placed on what they've learned (whether a name, a language, or shopping list), can have direct impact on how well it's remembered. Some will learn (remember) quickly while others will take more time.