Chapter 2. The Learning Process

Long-Term Memory (LTM)

Long-term memory (LTM) is relatively permanent storage of unlimited information and it is possible for memories in LTM to remain there for a lifetime. What is stored in LTM affects a personís perceptions of the world and affects what information in the environment is noticed. Information that passes from STM to LTM typically has some significance attached to it. For example, imagine how difficult it would be for a pilot to forget the first day he or she soloed. This is a significant day in any pilotís training, so when the information was processed, significance was attached to it, the information was deemed important, and it was transferred into LTM.

There must be other reasons information is transferred to LTM because the average human brain stores numerous insignificant facts. One explanation is repetition; people tend to remember things the more they are rehearsed. Information also ends up in LTM because it is somehow attached to something significant. A man may remember the color of the dress his girlfriend was wearing on the day he proposed marriage to her. The color of the dress plays no important role, but is attached to the memory of proposing marriage.

For the stored information to be useful, some special effort must have been expended during the encoding or consolidation of information in STM. The encoding should provide meaning and connections between old and new information. If initial encoding is not properly accomplished, recall is distorted and it may be impossible. The more effective the encoding process, the easier the recall. However, it should be noted that the LTM is a reconstruction, not a pure recall of information or events. It is also subject to limitations, such as time, biases, and, in many cases, personal inaccuracies. This is why two people who view the same event often have totally different recollections. Memory also applies to psychomotor skills. For example, with practice, a tennis player may be able to serve a tennis ball at a high rate of speed and with accuracy. This may be accomplished with very little thought. For a pilot, the ability to instinctively perform certain maneuvers or tasks that require manual dexterity and precision, provides obvious benefits. For example, it allows the pilot more time to concentrate on other essential duties such as navigation, communications with ATC facilities, and visual scanning for other aircraft.

Information in LTM is stored in interrelated networks of schemas which are the cognitive frameworks that help people organize and interpret information. Schemas guide recognition and understanding of new information by providing expectations about what should occur. Since LTM is organized into schemas, instructors must consciously look for ways to make training relevant and meaningful enough for the learner to transfer new information to LTM. This can be accomplished by activating existing schemas before presenting new information. For example, a brief review of the previous lesson via discussion, video, questions, etc.

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