How much variation is there in human memory?

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Offline cheryl j

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How much variation is there in human memory?
« on: 16/11/2014 14:57:47 »
The other day I was thinking about my childhood, and other points in the past and was kind of saddened that much of it seemed vague and fuzzy, and I wondered if it was just me, or if it is that way for others.
We don't tend to recognize big differences in people's memory unless it creates a noticeable problem. There's a lower threshold where memory is obviously impaired, but there doesn't seem to be a way to measure large positive differences in long term memory, the way one might try to measure IQ.

The only thing I've seen along those lines are studies of a small number of individuals who seem to have really extraordinary episodic memory, and can remember what they did each day weeks, months, even years ago, the way you would remember what you did two or three days ago. They can also remember the exact dates of events of things they read or heard about, like the death of a celebrity or a natural disaster or a plane crash.  Their ability doesn't apply to all aspects of memory. For example they score no better on short term memory tasks (remembering items in a list, or objects in a picture.)

At any rate, those individuals are fairly rare. For people who aren't anomalies, I wondered if there's any way to quantify long term memory. And do they know if the problems with long term memory or are storage or retrieval problems, or both. It is an odd and surprising feeling when you spontaneously remember something you hadn't thought about in years and felt you had completely forgotten. I also wonder why memory retrieval is inconsistent, how one can be temporarily unable to recall something, and then have it pop into your head hours or days later. What bunch of neurons is not firing, or chemical process is not happening properly?