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Memory Versus Learning

Memory Versus Learning

Memory is used in our everyday life as well as learning; these are two distinct processes yet very related. Take a look to observe what differentiates memory and learning.
Claudia Miclaus
As we all very well know from our day-to-day life, the things we perceive as belonging to our past, either read from books, thoughts or moments lived by us, do not disappear after the event has already happened. We usually are capable of reproducing in our minds the faces of people we have met, of places we've been to, thoughts, things spoken, heard or read, and so on. A thing that we have seen before, a song that we have heard before, appear as something familiar, i.e. we recognize them. In all of these cases, it is about the psychological process called "memory". Memory could be defined as a form of reflecting reality. But what is typical of memory is the fact that it reflects aspects of our previous experience.

All of these examples illustrate that we could define memory as the psychological process consisting of registering, storing and reproducing what has been part of our experience. Memory does not manifest itself only in certain moments of our life. It does manifest itself permanently, continuously, throughout our entire psychic life. The things we perceive have a certain meaning for us and we can make use of them because our experience, revitalized by memory. Our thoughts have certain continuity because every second of our life we remember what we have thought a second, a minute, an hour ago. Memory gives continuity to our spiritual life. Thanks to memory, the individual's experience can expand and enrich all the time. Memory is based especially on forming and actualizing the temporary nervous connections. The laws of acquiring and losing the conditioned reflex generally explain the phenomena of memorizing and forgetting.

Modern researches have pointed out the existence of some elementary physiological processes which can also contribute to the elucidation of memory issues. Thus, it has been discovered that certain cortical cells have the role of nervous energy condensers, which continue to discharge some time after the stimulus has stopped its action. The existence of some so-called reverberating circuits has been established, in which the nervous influx can circulate through a closed chain, facilitating thus the respective trajectory.

Due to its structure, the human brain can generally be capable of retaining information phenomena. Also, we could mention certain bio-electrical phenomena produced by a stimulus which can continue or reappear after the disappearance of the initial stimulus. The terms memory and learning are quite difficult to differentiate, because they have many common aspects. We could, however, try and define and delimit them both. As it has been previously mentioned, memory is the psychic process consisting of retaining, preserving and reproducing certain facts from our experience. Let us now try to show the differences between learning and memory.

Difference Between Memory and Learning

First of all, whereas memory is especially a means of reflecting things, learning is primarily defined as an activity by which we fix our knowledge into our memory. Also, learning is a more complex activity than the simple act of memorizing facts, images, impressions, and so on. Learning implies an effort of understanding, systematization and management of stored information, and also exercises of putting them into practice.

Learning covers a larger area of phenomena than the simple memorization. Thus, for instance, a student solving math problems can improve his skills in solving problems, can learn how to use his knowledge of math in an independent and original manner. This improving is a form of learning. Another example in this sense: an expert in the field of colors learns to distinguish very fine color nuances. He thus develops his chromatic sensitivity to which one can very well apply the term "learning".

Learning is an activity and can be applied to any form of activity, including movement. Thus, we say that a child learns to walk or to speak; a person learns to swim, and so on. Learning always implies the use of our past memory, but it also does imply both in the fixation and in the use of the things retained a larger spectrum of psychic phenomena and a more intimate integration in the individual's behavior.

We also usually say about somebody who's learning a foreign language that he/she has memorized a series of new words, but we could not say that he/she has memorized how to speak, to express him/her in the new language.