Why do some things “stick” in your mind, but not others?

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For example, how is it that you can remember some fleeting and unimportant experiences in vivid detail- like a place you visited or a short conversation from years before- but you can study information for a test for hours and hours, and forget it the next day?

In: Other
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When you’re studying it gets monotonous and your brain gets bored and stops storing every little thing. Fleeting and unimportant experiences may stick around because they were so out of the norm of what happens in your day to day life, especially with the visiting places example. If you go somewhere once or twice then you’ll remember what you did during those times, but go there regularly, multiple times a year then you won’t remember everything.

Don’t take me as an authority as I’m not qualified but here’s what I think based on what I’ve read. You remember what you use (thinking about something is a form of using it) so you probably thought about that conversation for some reason. You probably would remember something if you studied for hours, but you’re not going to remember everything. Imagine remembering a 2 hour conversation about technical things, you wouldn’t. If you use what you study you will remember it bette r

At least for your example, it appears the brain stores memories in a few different fashions, and speaks to how memories are made.

First
The conversation is an “episodic” long term memory. it is something that happened TO YOU and you directly interacted with. This type of memory has a good rate of recall and longevity. Part of it is hypothesized to be tied to survival. It is an event that you know occured, rather than worried about or heard about. So it’s got a higher priority.

Second
memories seem to be made by your brain creating connections. The more connections it has, the more likely it is to be found when needed (or even unwanted…). So having lots of different ways to think about, or experience a certain event or idea helps you remember it better. This is why listening, watching, and taking notes is better than just listening. You engage 4 senses sight, sound, touch, kinesthetics (muscle motions) rather than just one

Talking with a friend at a coffee shop has thousands of muscle cues, visual and audio, tactile information and scent. All used to evaluate the surroundings and interprete what was going on. And a lot of this is then promptly ignored. And for a conversation, you’re hooking in many different mental processing tools, language, hearing, social cues, body language, balance, and more.

So, if you want to learn better, find ways to experience it in richer ways than just reading. Ideally Figure out a way to mimic the problem or concept for you to watch and interact with. If you can’t, then Find someone to talk to, to argue with, to puzzle over the problems with while sitting at a coffee shop 😛