Human memory is the ability to keep a mental record of earlier experiences. Basically, memory is learning. Every person learns a great many things. For example, a person may learn to ride a bicycle. This is a skill. Or he/she may learn the names of all the Presidents of
. This is a verbal response. He/she also may learn to be afraid of snakes. This is an emotional response. A person may remember some skills, verbal responses, and emotional responses all his/her life. Verbal responses are usually forgotten more easily than are skills or emotional responses. Psychologists use three methods to determine how much a person remembers. These methods are: (1) recall, (2) recognition, and (3) relearning. The most natural way to find out how much a person remembers of a familiar item such as a grocery list for example, is to ask him/her what he/she remembers. This is called the method of recall. Another method, called recognition, is to ask the person to separate items on the original list from items that were not on the list. Usually a person will be able to recognize much material that he/she cannot recall. However, he/she will not be able to recall material that he/she cannot recognize. A third method of determining how much a person remembers is called the method of relearning. Here the individual is asked to relearn the original list. He/she will probably learn the list the second time faster than he/she did the first time. The difference in the time it takes to relearn the list is considered a measure of how much has been remembered. Teachers and psychologist have differed widely in their opinions about the value of memorizing. But they generally agree there is little use in memorizing things that have no particular meaning for the person who memorizes them. A child should not be encouraged to learn facts in the language of a textbook and repeat them word for word. It is much more important for him/her to understand the meaning of what he/she is learning, and to use facts to connect new knowledge with things he/she has learned previously. A reliable memory is very important to success in life that people have spent much time inventing ways of improving the memory. The art of strengthening the memory by using certain formal or mechanical methods of remembering is called mnemonics. Mnemonics tries to make remembering easy by using various kind of tricks or associations. Some persons have excellent memories, and others have poor memories. However, certain general statements can be made about the memories of most persons. Memory tends to improve up to the time of maturity. After that, there may be a very gradual decline in the ability to remember things. Furthermore, the higher the person's intelligence, the better the person will be able to remember. Most of the secrets of how the brain works remain hidden. Nerve impulse messages can be traced electrically, but how are they translated into what is felt, seen, and heard? What happens in the brain during learning that leaves a permanent trace recalled in memories? How does the brain form symbols, such as words and mathematical formulas and use them to solve complicated problems? How does the brain make judgments, decisions, and plans for future actions? Scientists still do not know the answers to such questions.