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Brain Rule # 5 –Short-Term Memory – Repeat to Remember

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Brain Rules Dr. John Medina

Brain Rule # 5 –Short-Term Memory – Repeat to Remember

Medina begins this chapter relating the story of a man named Kim Peek who was born in 1951. They labeled him as mentally disabled and recommended that his parents institutionalize him. Instead his father nurtured him and helped him develop great intellectual strengths. While born with an enlarged brain, no corpus callosum and a damaged cerebellum, he didn’t learn to walk until he was 4 years old. However, he could read, understand and remember two pages at a time. Someone who interviewed him in a library found that he knew everything about every book in that library. He wrote a screen play that became the movie, Rain Man.

According to Medina, memory comes in four steps: encoding, storage, retrieval and forgetting. This chapter is about the first moments of encoding. Some scientists believe that it is our memory that makes us consciously aware. ‘”Encoding describes what happens at the initial moment of learning, that fleeting golden instant when the brain first encounters a new piece of declarative information.” P. 103 “To encode information means to convert data into, well, a code.” P. 106 There are three kinds of encoding – semantic; phonemic and structural as demonstrated in the following test. Read word in capital letters and then answer the question:


Does this word fit into the sentence, ‘I turned around to fight ______?’


Does this word rhyme with evil?______


Are there any circles in these letters? ______ p. 107

As scientists have worked on cracking the code, they have come up with three common characteristics of the encoding process:

1) “The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory.” P. 110 OR if you attach a meaning to the information you learn, the easier to remember.

2) “A memory trace appears to be stored in the same parts of the brain that perceived and processed the initial input.” P. 111

3) “Retrieval may best be improved by replicating the conditions surrounding the initial encoding.” P. 113

Medina continues exploring memory in the next rule regarding Long-Term Memory.


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