A Basic Introduction to How Human Memory Works (SPEECH OUTLINE)

January 26, 2017 General Studies

Specific purpose: to increase my audience’s understanding of how memory functions and how it affects them.

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Central idea: Memory is a process of the brain which is prone to certain failures, although specific steps can be taken to guard against these failures.


I. Memory problems can affect us in many ways.

A. Some of you might have had problems finding your keys before you came to class.

B. Some of you have certainly suffered from “What’s Your Name Again?” syndrome.

1. We can remember attributes of people without being able to recall their names.

2. For instance, you may not know my name but you would be able to recognize me as being in your class.

II. I will explain some of the basic ways memory can fail and how to take care of your memory.

A. Memory can fail in numerous ways, from the common examples above to more devasting problems, like Alzheimer’s disease.

B. Fortunately, brain problems like Alzheimer’s can be delayed or even prevented.

C. In order to understand how human memory fails, we need a basic understanding of how it works.


I. Memory is a complex process that takes place primarily in the brain.

Cite: Cognition Lab @ NASA, website.

A. Short-term memory is the first memory formed.

1. Short-term memory holds memories that were created recently for a short period of time.

a. includes sensory memory.

b. can turn into long-term memory.

B. Long-term memory stores memories created throughout our past that we may need at a future time.

1. For long term memory to be formed from short-term memory, three conditions must be met:.

a. attention.

b. repetition.

c. connection.

2. There are two basic types of long-term memory:.

Cite: Dr. Eric Kendel in States of Mind, Columbia professor and director of Columbia’s Center for Neurobiology and Behavior.

a. implicit.

i. knowing “how”.

ii. does not require conscious awareness.

b. explicit.

i. knowing “that”.

ii. does require conscious awareness.


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