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Chemistry LibreTexts

Obtain and Processing Information

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    Obtaining and Processing Information: What you see is what you get



    Before information is stored in memory, it is first given attention, acquired, and then processed in the brain. See below to see examples.

    Example #1: You walk into a department store and you are reminded of your great-grandmother as a woman hands you a sample of her favorite perfume.

    Example #2: You see a person who you have not seen since elementary school and their face looks very familiar to you. You cannot remember their name, but you remember the Valentine’s Day conversation hearts you once exchanged.

    Example #3: You are listening to the radio and a song comes on you have not heard in years. You smile at the memory of this song and are surprised at how well you remember the words as you sing along.


    We are able to sing along with a song, recognize a person’s face, or identify a scent due to the attention we paid to the particular event. When we attend to something, we become physically involved and this activates chemicals in the brain that assist in our ability to learn. When we associate an object with an emotion, we are more likely to remember it. This emotion can be really happy—going to prom with our high-school sweetheart, or sad—t he loss of a loved one. Some people report they can remember where they were, what they were doing, and other identifying factors when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and/or the September 11th tragedies.

    • Can you remember an event in the news?
    • Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?

    Just for fun, ask a relative if they can remember where they were when JFK was shot or how they heard about the World Trade Center buildings on September 11th.