We all take memory for granted. Though people dealing with a family member suffering from dementia are acutely aware of how devastating loss of memory can be, the rest of us simply ignore the issue of memory until we forget something important. And as we grow older, we become more anxious about each memory lapse we experience along the way.
But what is memory? And how are we able to learn and retain new information? While a century and a half of memory research has given us some understanding of the cognitive processes that relate to memory and learning, the general consensus among researchers that we still have a long way to go. According to Colin M. MacLeod of the University of Waterloo, one of the most beautiful things about learning is that it is never completed. “It has been my privilege to be part of this quest to understand what makes us ourselves for 40 years, decades that have passed with the fleeting, yet inevitable quality of memory itself.” he said in a recent article in Canadian Psychology.
In that same article, which he titled “The Six Rs of Remembering”, Doctor MacLeod described his preoccupation with the letter “R” and the way that it underlines the cognitive processes that make memory work.