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a young persons guide to Memory

All day long in school we're asked to remember things, and often it is suprisingly hard. What does science know about our memory and how can we carry out experiments on it?


Niamh and Eleanor from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland talk us through how memories are created and where they are stored in the brain.

How does memory work

How does memory work

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The first step is ENCODING where we take the information in through our senses.



The next step is STORAGE where we store the memory in our brain. This works much better if we can make connections to other memories.



The final step is RETRIEVAL where we are able to find the information in our long term memory



1 - Story

How well can you remember a story? 

  1. Read the story below to the person being tested

  2. Ask them to repeat the story back to you

  3. Mark the points they remember on the test sheet.

  4. Add up their score


For an additional twist, add a delay between reading the story and asking your test subject to read it back to you. Do they remember less after 30 minutes compared to 5 minutes?


The story


How to mark the experiment

Show Story

Need another story for a second experiment?



How to mark the experiment

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2 Letter-Number Sequences

Put the following list of letters and numbers in order with numbers first and then letters:

Question:  D-8-J

Answer:     8-D-J  

Psychologists use tests like this to examine your short term memory* and how fast you can think**.

Experiment Ideas

What kind of things could possibly affect your memory or how fast you can think?  Music, doing another task, talking, watching TV......


Test one group of people (control) normally and then test the second group with something changed. 

* Technically they measure your working memory, for more information on the difference, click here.

** This is called processing speed.