When did you last brush your teeth?
In order to answer this question, your brain has to parse an enormous amount of data in search of a specific piece of information. However, it has to be able to tell the difference between this morning’s teeth brushing and your first memory of a tooth brush. This distinction is easy when the memories have distinct differences – for example, if your first memory of a tooth brush is in a different house than your current one. It gets more difficult when these distinctions can’t be made. Your morning routine doesn’t involve a lot of new, memorable events. This means that as you’re getting ready for work and you ask yourself the opening question, you don’t have a distinct memory to refer to – is that memory in your head from this morning, or last?
For unimportant memories like these, we seem to measure the passage of time by their rate of decay. You’re more likely to remember whether you brushed your teeth this morning if you go to the medicine cabinet and take out your toothbrush. The less the memory has decayed, the more certain you will be that you really did brush your teeth recently.
I’m not sure what this sort of memory is considered. The length of true short-term memory is measured in seconds. Does this mean the brain actually stores a memory of every tooth-brushing in the long-term memory?
For more reading on the theories of fading memory mentioned above, read about the decay theory and interference theory. Most neuroscientists seem to agree that a combination of these and other factors contribute to the increased difficulty in accessing specific memories. Have any thoughts on the subject? Remember, all you’ve got to do is
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The photo in this post was taken by Dan Watson and shared under the Unsplash license.