Short-term, as the wording would suggest is the part of your memory which stores information for a brief duration of time. It is where information which you will not be required to refer to again is kept such as the price of a particular product in the supermarket, for example. The amount of information and the length of time it can be retained in this location depends on the attentiveness of the individual. If we want to remember a particular piece of information we tend to repeat it over and over again so it sticks in our mind. It is not normal for the majority of people to be able to recall information from their short term memory, unless they practice techniques to deliver the data to the long term memory.
As an example of this let’s look at trying to remember a phone number. The number in question is an average seven digit number of 4372819. If you try to memorize this number by one digit at a time, five minutes later and you are not likely to be able to recall the number. Now give it another go by remembering the numbers in two’s, 43-72-81-9, except for the 9 at the end. Allow yourself five minutes and try to recall the number in this manner. You will find by breaking the whole number down into three sections + the 9 you have a much greater chance of recalling the number. The number is no different to before and you are still the same person with the same brain. Don’t you think the two completely different results are amazing?
So, how do I improve my short term memory, I hear you ask?
The simple answer is to practice all of the time. The more practice you put in the longer you will be able to keep your short term memory active. Practice by trying to remember phone numbers, pin numbers, car registration numbers and so on and so forth, but make sure you use the strategy outlined earlier.
One form of common short term memory practice we use on a regular basis is our shopping list. If you are not writing the list down and have to remember it in your head this is a fool proof way of committing it to memory. You have nine items to buy, such as hair dye, chocolate syrup, milk, jam, hair gel, coke, shoe polish, shampoo, and deodorant. With these items in mind form a story in your head which relates to each thing on your list. For example, have a mental picture of dyeing your hair with chocolate syrup then washing it out with milk. You then put jam on your head instead of gel and then have to wash it all out using shampoo. Now you polish your shoes, have a quick squirt of deodorant, pop your bottle of coke in your bag and leave the house to go to work. Creating a story like this keeps all the items you require in one spot instead of being wildly scattered all over the place.
We can see from this example that short term memory helps us to carry out our daily tasks in an effective and efficient manner. It’s almost like having paper and pencil at the ready on a permanent basis. However, it should be noted that persons who are severely traumatized need to always ensure their therapist is present when using imagery as this can be dangerous when used during a disordered state of mind.