Imagine our friend Knut, who we have already introduced in earlier chapters of this book, hastily walking through his apartment looking everywhere for a gold medal that he has won many years ago at a swimming contest. The medal is very important to him, since it was his recently deceased mother who had insisted on him participating. The medal reminds him of the happy times in his life. But now he does not know where it is. He is sure that he had last seen it two days ago but, searching through his recent experiences, he is not able to recall where he has put it.
So what exactly enables Knut to remember the swimming contest and why does the medal trigger the remembrance of the happy times in his life? Also, why is he not able to recall where he has put the medal, even though he is capable of scanning through most of his experiences of the last 48 hours?
Memory, with all of its different forms and features, is the key to answering these questions. When people talk about memories, they are subconsciously talking about "the capacity of the nervous system to acquire and retain usable skills and knowledge, which allows living organisms to benefit from experience". Yet, how does this so-called memory function? In the process of answering this question, many different models of memory have evolved. Distinctions are drawn between Sensory Memory, Short Term Memory, and Long Term Memory based on the period of time information is accessible after it is first encountered. Sensory Memory, which can further be divided into Echoic and Iconic Memory, has the smallest time span for accessibility of information. With Short Term and Working Memory, information is accessible seconds to minutes after it is first encountered. While Long Term Memory, has an accessibility period from minutes to years to decades. This chapter discusses these different types of memory and further gives an insight into memory phenomena like False Memory and Forgetting. Finally, we will consider biological foundations that concern memory in human beings and the biological changes that occur when learning takes place and information is stored.