Memory Meaning, Components, Functions and Process 

Table of Content:-

  1. Memory Meaning
  2. Components of Memory System
  3. Functions of Memory
  4. Memory Process
  5. Factors Affecting Memory

Memory Meaning

Memory means the storage of past happenings and thoughts. The process of memory involves coding, storing, and then accessing the stored data. It is very important to understand the way memory works if one wishes to understand the process of consumer behaviour. It is the working of memory that dictates the way consumers perceive, make decisions, evaluate alternatives, etc.

Memories function like personal databases for individuals, holding information about past events and occurrences. It is important because it has a direct impact on the way consumers perceive the environment around them and has a direct bearing on their behaviour. To understand consumer behaviour, one, therefore, needs to have a good understanding of memory. For marketers, consumers must have good recollections of their experiences with the brand. Otherwise, it can lead to adverse market situations.

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Psychology compares memory to a process by which the individual encodes, stores and accesses data. Encoding is the process which permits outside information to reach the interiors of the brain. It, therefore, requires some amount of transformation of the original information. The second part of the process is the actual storage of the data. The third part is the actual access to the information. This is a complicated process as the data needs to be located and then brought to a certain conscious setting. Many times, the retrieval may not lead to an output.

What is Memory?

Consumers store various experiences and information in their memory. They also store the various criteria that they use to measure brands. Stored information might relate to products or brands previously purchased, the price paid, the service received, and other associated experiences. Consumers gather and store information from different sources, encompassing both offline and online platforms. It could be in the form of social media buzz or word of mouth marketing referrals or actual in-shop experiences. A time gap exists between the exposure of consumers to product information and the actual decision to make a purchase. This lag could be anything between a few hours a few days or a few months. This is why it is important that consumers encode and store information regarding the product. The process by which the human brain encodes, stores and accesses information is very similar to the functioning of a computer.

Memory Organisation: Components of Memory System

There are many theories on how human memory functions. Quite a few of these theories are based on the premise that human memory has three parts-sensory memory, short-term and long-term memory. Many psychologists do not support this viewpoint but it remains one of the cornerstones of modern-day thought. These three parts of the memory play a big role in our ability to encode. store and access information. This is shown in the figure:

1) Sensory Memory

This capability allows individuals to store sensory information as they encounter it through their senses. Typically, there exists a short-term storage region for this purpose. The mode of operation of this type of memory is automatic. The individual can interpret various sensory stimuli instantaneously by accessing this memory. The sensory memory stores all information about touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. However, this is applicable for a very brief span. The information sustains for some time in the memory of the individual which allows him to analyse the same and retain the more important part for future use.

For example, A person may encounter various stimuli through the advertisements of different products. However, not all of these may catch his attention. On the other hand, when a specific advertisement rekindles a memory through a catchy tune or familiar scene, it intrigues the consumer to explore the stimuli more extensively.

2) Short-Term Memory (STM)

The short-term memory of the individual can store information for limited periods. However, it is longer than the duration for which sensory memory is stored. This type of memory is very similar to the computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory). Short-term memory has many important characteristics.

Capacity-wise, short-term memory can only handle a very small amount of information. It can hold approximately seven bits of information. In other words, the person can remember only seven items at a time. The duration available for this is notably short. The timespan of short-term memory is approximately 20 seconds. Attention plays a big role in moving a bit of information into or outside the recess of short-term memory. Repetition is necessary for any information to be recollected in short-term memory.

3) Long-Term Memory

The long term memory is of fairly large duration. Consumers retain large bits of information in this type of memory which they require for their daily existence.

In terms of capacity, long-term memory is unlimited. There is a process by which short-term memory is converted into long-term memory. Short-term memory is first analysed and then bits of information that are in sync with past experiences are typically stored in the long-term memory.

Long-term memory itself has two parts-semantic and episodic memory. Marketers have a lot of interest in the semantic memory of consumers. This is the part where the beliefs and feelings of the individual regarding any idea or concept are stored. It, in a way, represents the way a person evaluates things or products in the simplest sense. In this part of the memory, a Mercedes may be classified as a Luxury Car.

The other part of long-term memory is episodic memory. This part of the memory stores the sequence in which certain experiences take place. These could relate to instances like a first date, graduation day, the birth of a first child, etc.

There is a lot of imagery and abstract feelings related to this type of memory. Marketers try to create good episodic memories around the usage of brands so that consumers have positive thoughts about the underlying product.

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Functions of Memory/ Memory Function

Memory has the following role:

1) Influences Current Behaviour

Learning is a very important part of consumer behaviour. As consumers get more information about products through experiences, etc., there is a certain modification of behaviour which may take place. Leaming thus increases the amount of information that the consumer may have about products.

2) Facilitates Functioning in Society

We exist in society because of our memory. Humans would not be able to function in a society without memory. The role of memory is often underestimated by people. Alzheimer’s is a type of disease which impacts the memory of human beings.

3) Helps in Forming Preference

Research in the areas of consumer behaviour has shown that memory has a very significant role to play in the formation of perception by consumers. Memory impacts the way consumers perceive and interpret stimuli. With increased memory, the consumer also acquires more information about the product and experiences. He learns new words and focuses more on the product experience.

4) Enriches Consumers’ Experiences

Memory makes the experience of the consumer richer. It also plays a big part in modifying their behaviour.

Memory Process

Encoding, storage and retrieval are the three main components of the memory process:

1) Encoding

The present researches carried out in neuroscience are in great favour of the concept that memory is mainly the combination of encoded neural connections. Encoding determines the structure of data storage in our memory, which in turn affects the speed and accuracy of retrieval.

A stronger connection will lead to a stronger memory If there is effective learning and encoding, it can result in lifetime storage and retrieval and if not, then it is possible to forget the data instantaneously. The encoding and string of some data will be done subconsciously, but on the other hand, other information may require a careful focused attempt.

2) Storage

The manner and location of information storage heavily influence the quality of retrieval and resulting memory, whether favourable or unfavourable. Let us consider the operation of a search engine such as Google and it can depict a very good representation. A certain meaning is provided to the data and it is grouped into sections the identical elements are clubbed together, it is possible to have cross-evaluation and when searching for certain information, one element can provide us more and thus making the retrieval quite simple, commonly within some seconds if we have better knowledge of the system.

3) Retrieval

This represents the ease of data accessibility. Whenever required, the often-used information will pop out, on the other hand, more time will be taken by other information. This can indicate the application of related reminder clues and cues that are used while encoding alongwith relaxing and facilitating the response to, again, pop out in its own time. In some cases, the inability to retrieve the old memory is only for a limited period and this tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is termed as blocking.

Factors Affecting Memory

There are many factors which affect memory and learning processes. Some of these are:

1) Concentration and Attentiveness

The role of attention is pivotal in shaping the storage of information in memory. It is because of this reason that impaired attention is often the cause of weak memory. Experiments have showcased that the implementation of aids like mnemonics can amplify memory capacity. This creates attention that aids in memory.

2) Motivation

Learning is easy when the subject is interesting or an interest is there in the subject. Children often have a problem in grasping the basics of Mathematics and Science especially if these are presented in a very dry way. The challenge is to make the content interesting. This can be easily seen when the same students have no problem in analysing the scores of cricketers or playing a computer game.

3) Use of the Senses

Research has indicated that involving multiple senses in the process enhances the creation of memories. A sight which also has the additional cues of sound and smell has a greater chance of being a part of memory. Contrast plays a certain role. For example, high and low, loud and mellow, fonts of contrasting sizes, etc., all play a role in memory. The education level of the audience is also a factor. When dealing with less educated audiences, pictorial cues exhibit superior effectiveness compared to written cues.

4) Emotional State

Memories also have certain feelings associated. These feelings could be positive or negative. For example, when people recall certain incidents like their first date or first job, they also tend to get very emotional. An example of this is the “flashbulb memory” where individuals can get very emotional on recalling an incident which happened in the past.

5) Situational Factors

There are many situational factors too which influence memory formation. For example, a great holiday or extremely challenging situations in a particular job. The task of the marketing manager is to create favourable situations around service so that consumers have a positive memory of product experiences. This also creates a strong word of mouth for the product. Research has shown that happy experiences typically get magnified over time. Similarly, negative experiences also have a larger negative effect.

6) Accuracy of Memories

Research has also shown that memories can often have a confounding effect. Many individuals often find themselves perplexed while remembering past events, which can subsequently lead to incorrect interpretations of present occurrences. Memories commonly either emphasize or de-emphasize events. People also often tend to forget parts related to their faults or simply forget. This leads to a wrong picture in the minds of the consumer.

Research shows that feelings of surety or correctness regarding memory may not necessarily be so. This is because we often fill in the blanks when we are committing things to memory. We also get influenced by the views of others when we are filling in any information gaps. An example of this can be taken from the Police. The police normally rely on crime reconstruction accounts. This may often be quite different from what happened.

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