Is Experience Copied to Memory?

As a life event is experienced — seen, heard, recognized, understood, etc. — what happens next? However the event might be “processed,” it is first and foremost stored as a memory.

Let’s do an experiment. Lift an object and drop it on a surface. Maybe it’s a pen you let fall onto a desk or the floor. Do you remember the feel of the pen? How fast it fell? The sound it made upon striking the surface? This little experiment proves that experience itself — in this case tactile, visual, and auditory — is stored instantly as memory.

The memory of an experience is not a vague or fuzzy representation of the original. Nor is it an abstract processing of that event. The memory of it – what it felt, looked, and sounded like – is the same as the original. Granted its contents may not be as vivid — but they are of the same kind. The INFORMATION of that experience is stored, as memory.

An episodic memory is, essentially, a copy of the mind, which in turn mirrors one’s experience.

In fact all aspects of the mind — emotions, thoughts, pain, pleasure, states of attention, goals, intentions, etc. — is also copied to memory. Our life experiences are converted to memory, continually and automatically. This is how we can understand words such as “I felt tired and irritable,” ” yet I paid close attention to learning the argument,” or “I decided to think of a counter-argument.”

Can the reader think of any experience — any thought, feeling, perception etc. — that is not converted to memory? I have looked for a decade and have found almost none. Essentially any experience can be stored as a memory.

The brain copies experience to memory automatically yet selectively. The experience copied is based on salience and attention. Seeing a hundred dollar bill on the ground is more memorable than a maple leaf. Non-salient experience can also be stored — and for a long time if that’s the person’s intention.

Overall, the brain continually converts the contents of the mind — i.e. experience — to memory. The contents of human memory are not a neural processing of experience; the contents of memory are experience itself!

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