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Immediate Memory

Immediate memory is the ability to remember a small amount of information over a few seconds.

Listen to the following scenario that illustrates an everyday example of immediate memory in action. Click the audio icon when ready.

Play Audio  Transcript What was that number?
<a href="../pages/immediate.wma">Download movie</a>

Demonstration of Immediate Memory

M is the Male speaker
F is the Female speaker

F. Arrrr, where is that number?

F. OK. 4447227

M. Marilyn, have you seen my keys?

F. Don't interupt me. There on the hall...there on the hall table.

F. What is that number?

F. Urghhh. 4....

F. 4447227. OK

Examples of Immediate Memory

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dialling a phone number I was just told

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copying a figure I have just seen

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solving this equation in my head

Test your Immediate Memory
Try the following demonstrations:

Did you know?
Immediate memory is an important type of memory for making sense of what is going on around you. For example, immediate memory is used when reading to recall what happens sentence by sentence; or when recalling a phone number just looked up in the phone book. There is a limit to how much can be stored in immediate memory. Unlike other forms of memory, information in immediate memory fades very quickly (lasts only a few seconds). Can you remember the numbers in the second demonstration? Most people cannot.

Effects of aging on Immediate Memory
Immediate memory is not affected much by age. At any age, people can usually store 5 to 7 pieces of information in immediate memory. Click the icon below to see a chart comparing the ability to recall a series of digits with age.

View Chart Immediate Memory: Digits recalled to the age of the person

Tips to maintain or even improve your Immediate Memory
To keep your immediate memory active, there are some simple (and fun) things you can do such as:

  • Keep your mind active. Participate in activities that require you to think & learn, such as playing bridge or attending a lecture.
  • Exercising. There is some evidence to suggest that physical exercise contributes to memory retention.

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