To better understand why our memory sometimes falters, we need to understand how the brain stores information. Information is not stored in a single area of your mind, but are scattered over various regions. You can think of you brain as an area containing various storage bins. Each time you collect a piece of information, you brain decides how to categorize it and then what bin to drop it into. The next time you go looking for those facts, your brain then at least has an idea of what bin it placed it in.
For example, you may store the name of a person you just met several moments ago in your recent memory right along side what you had for breakfast this morning. Your brain also has a different “storage bin” for long-term items, such as knowledge acquired years ago or your memories of childhood. It also has a different storage bin for short-term facts, that information that you need at the moment, but you may not need tomorrow or even later in the day.
You’d be surprised how early in life that you begin to lose brain cells. This phenomenon occurs as early as your 20s. This is when your body manufactures less of the certain chemicals that are essential to the ideal functioning of your memory.
There are several logical reasons, besides aging that you may forget certain things. Let’s say you misplaced a piece of paper. You’ll get a fuller appreciation for the complexity of the human memory once you realize everything that goes into retrieving this information. While this may seem to be a single action, it’s really a series of smaller steps. You brain first retrieves the name of the object, in this case the paper, and then its shape, function and other physical qualities associated with it. In other words, your brain is reconstructing the entire image of that paper from various areas or “storage bins” of the brain.
Memory experts explain that there are three reasons that may explain why you can’t remember where you left it. First, you may not have clearly registered, or taken notice, of where you laid that paper down. Second, if you did register it in your brain, you failed to retain it. Finally, you may have registered and retained where that important paper is, but you aren’t able to retrieve it.
If you want to remember where you put your piece of paper or your keys, you’ll need to make an extra effort at going through all three stages of the memory process.
Forgetting may be as simple as failing to encode the action properly. Perhaps you were distracted at the moment that encoding process would have been taking place. Don’t blame yourself, if the location of the paper never actually found its way into your memory in the first place.