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How does memory work in the brain?
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We remember through Visual Encoding

Visualizing or seeing information can aid in a persons' encoding and recall.

The Argument

For most humans, visual encoding is our primary method of receiving and processing information. When light waves enter our eye, they travel through the pupil back to the retina. The retina contains photoreceptors, nerves that respond to light by producing electrical signals. These electrical signals are sent through the optic nerve to the brain, where it is processed in the visual cortex and eventually transferred to memory processing.[1] Our brain processes visual stimuli in complicated ways. Multiple rules, known as Gestalt principles, influence how we interpret light stimuli to create a complete, logical image in our brain. Interpretations of these complete images are what is stored in the memory as representative of the object or stimulus that was viewed.[2] Visual encoding can increase recall and help encode information more deeply into memory. Seeing, or simply visualizing a stimulus, improves memory of it when paired with other forms of encoding. For example, people have been shown to recall words that they can visualize, such as those representing objects like "dog" or "snake", better than those they cannot visualize, such as those representing abstract concepts like "envy" or "anger".[3]

Counter arguments

Visual encoding's role in memory is overestimated. We constantly take in and see stimuli, yet remember hardly any of it. Walking down the street one might see a hundred people's faces, yet none are encoded into memories. Thus visual encoding is not significant on its own but only matters as a tool to supplement other encodings. In addition, blind people cannot use visual encoding at all, yet can remember information just as well as someone with a working vision. Visual encoding is far from the most important encoding mechanism.



[P1] Sensory stimuli are necessary to receive information. [P2] For most humans vision is the primary sense. [P3] Visual encoding is an important piece of the memory process.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P3] Visual encoding is not significant on its own without other types of processing. [Rejecting P3] Blind people have the capability to retain memories without visual encoding.


This page was last edited on Saturday, 22 Aug 2020 at 10:02 UTC

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