Memory: A viewpoint of creativity and intelligence

The Greek orators are used method of loci to remember their posts. In this technique, the speakers associated their points in speeches with landmarks or places in their cities. As they imaginatively passed a particular place or landmark, it enabled them to remember the associated memory element. The invention of this technique can be considered creative, while its rapid use as intelligence! How exactly is memory related to creativity and intelligence? In this article, we will aim to discuss how memory is used for creativity and intelligence-oriented tasks. The effort is based on various research studies, experiments and generalizations based on these experiments.

Definition, types and work

Memory is defined as “the ways in which we preserve and draw upon our past experiences to use this information in the present” (Tulving, 2000). Interestingly, the definition links the term use with memory function; we are also determined to understand how memory is used for creative and intelligence-oriented tasks. Alternatively, Encyclopedia Britannica defines memory as coding, storage, and retrieval in the human mind from past experiences. Thus, there are three main stages of information processing in human memory; Coding or acquisition. Storage or security storage and Retrieval or recollection.

William James, an American psychologist and philosopher, distinguished two types of memory; primary, dealing with short-term and short-term concerns, and secondary, responsible for storing information for long-term purposes. Short-term memory is the working area of ​​the brain, while long-term memory is its storage space. The temporary person’s temporary memory can store 5 to 9 units of information, while the capacity for permanent memory is virtually unlimited. The duration of short-term memory for storing information is up to 30 seconds, while information stored in long-term memory can last a lifetime. Eventually, the working memory is stored and remembered sequentially while the permanent memory is stored and restored by Association or consolidation (McLeod, 2013).

Merger or consolidation is a very important feature of memory processing. It is the ‘transfer’ of information / experience from short-term to long-term memory. We inevitably gather information day in and day out; this information goes directly to short-term memory. It is undesirable and impossible to keep all the details around us permanently. However, there are some experiences or information we get, store and store in our everyday lives, consciously or otherwise. For this, our brain requires the transmission of an experience, event or knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory done through Association or consolidation. It synergizes new information or experience with previously acquired information or experience. Eg method of loci mentioned at the beginning is an application of the same phenomenon; the Association of parts of speeches with landmarks.

The information is more easily consolidated when a person is alert and alert, deducing the meaning of “concentration” and “focus”. Emotional attachment – such as through pain, joy, joy or fear – also tends to solidify memory traces (Mayda, 2010). It is usually understood that memory can also associate particular odor, place or music with a particular occurrence.

Considering the current experience with past information for storage is certainly possible, our existing information may be associated with a future event. Readers can entertain themselves with an interesting argument, “episodic memory (personal memory or experience) Supports ‘mental time travel’ into the future as well as the past, and in fact, several recent studies have provided evidence that episodic memory is important in imagining or simulating possible future experiences.”(Madore, Addis & Schacter, 2015).

Memory & brain

The American neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891-1976) found the first evidence of physical memory (O’Shea, 2005). His experiments presented specific memories not only have a physical basis, but each also has a specific physical location in the brain. The memory slot in the brain is called engram (Britannica, 2019). Memory topics stored in the brain are manifested in the form of chemical or physical neural changes, ie. memory physically changes our brain! The changes are short-lived for short-term memories while they must be permanent for long-term memories. The hippocampus is the part of the brain where short-term memories are ‘transmitted’ to long-term memories (O’Shea, 2005).

Long-term memory requires a dialogue between synapses – gap between neurons – and genes, while short-term memory does not (O’Shea; 2005). Both synapses and genes are relevant to our theme to understand how memory relates to creativity and intelligence. Synapses are active participants in the process in which our brain responds to the changing environment, which means that our behavior along with the brain is continuously adjusted according to our recent experiences. What’s more interesting, our ability to learn from these experiences largely depends on how our genes are designed to respond! (O’Shea, 2005).

Memory and forgetfulness

When we talk about memory, we often remember the term forgetfulness (as a result of its ‘association’ with the definition of memory). Forgetfulness is defined as an unexpected lapse of memory; it may be sudden or gradual. Forgetfulness is an inevitable and indispensable aspect of human life; that is it “an absolutely important and active element of the process of interacting effectively with a changing environment” (O’Shea, 2005). In addition, evidence suggests that the rate that individuals forget is directly proportional to how much they have learned (Britannica, 2019). Time and forgetfulness are also co-related, time allows us to forget about certain instances or at least get past feelings associated with them. The ability to forget, events or feelings can allow individuals to move on / move on. Medically, our nervous system is relaxed by forgetting; Otherwise, it may collapse (Mayda, 2010).

The fact is that people tend to forget more often than necessary. Medically, there are several explanations and psychologically plentiful information. The age factor embodies forgetfulness in proportion to the number of cell loss (Mayda, 2010) – clears up why older people can forget seemingly simple things. In everyday life, depression, stress, negative emotions such as anxiety and anger, carelessness, and most importantly, fail to use acquired information for forgetfulness and poor memory (Coruh, 2012). Frequent drinking water, substance abuse, physical contact and head injuries can also cause forgetfulness. Healthy sleep, healthy eating, and commitment to spiritually elevating activities are recommended to avoid frequent memory loss. Remarkably, good memory responds to the satisfaction of life and peace of mind.

Creativity, intelligence and memory

According to Frederic Bartlett, a British psychologist, remembering is not simply the recollection of past experienced events, but instead involves an imaginative reconstruction of the past (Campbell, 1960). If so, isn’t the memory function itself a creative process?

To continue with our paper to rationalize the creativity and intelligence of memory, we first resort to the concept of declarative memory. Declarative or explicit recollections, such as declarative sentences, contain information about facts and events (Britannica, 2019). Declarative knowledge is extremely crucial for understanding the reality of our world / environment and also for regulating our behavioral patterns. There are two main types of declarative memory; episodic and semantic. In the past, long-lasting (and complex) memories are of specific or personal events, while the latter are memories of facts and general knowledge. As we have seen under the section Memory & Brain, it is proved through experiments that “memory requires that the brain be physically changed by experience” (O’Shea, 2005). Life is a fantastic series of experiences that physically change our brain, continuously and as a result, shape / reshape our behavior or personality. It is in the reserves of our memories, episodic and semantic, that we find our life experiences and present knowledge that help us tackle the challenges of everyday life, whether we require creativity or intelligence.

A creative challenge requires us to reconstruct our past life events and find existing knowledge / deductions in our memories to discover new solution (s), ie. we are able to form imaginative ideas based on our past experiences and current knowledge. As Donald T. Campbell puts it, an American psychologist puts it: “remembering can be an important part of the creative process “ (Campbell, 1960). Therefore, it is safe to say that the memory of an individual plays a significant role in the development of his or her creative disposition and capacity. For example, novels are composed by creative writers who build imaginative worlds and ingenious people, but it is precisely their real-life experiences that give them the beads of creative writing!

Merriam Webster defines intelligence as “the ability to learn or understand or handle new or trying situations: the skillful use of reason.” We have already seen that memory requires that the brain be physically changed; “it is this remarkable property that enables thought and awareness … The synaptic change or plasticity (of the brain) is fundamental to learning and memory function” (O’Shea; 2005).

Usually, our ability to understand and solve problems expresses our intelligence. There is obviously more to intelligence than problem understanding and solution, but we are particularly interested in determining the position of intelligence from the perspective of memory. First, problem understanding requires proper application of existing knowledge and memories stored in the human brain. To this end, the stored and relevant information must be quickly retrieved from the long-term memory to the working memory. Secondly, problem solving means that the working memory is capable of handling multiple thoughts and memories, gracefully and at the same time learning along the process. In short, smooth memory retrieval from permanent memory to short-term memory and fast thought processing in working memory allows us to understand and solve underlying problems. For example, a person who is good at mental math can solve difficult problems quickly in the head. This is because he or she is able to retrieve stored mathematical data / rules from the long-term memory, quickly and accurately handle the entire solution in the working memory.

“There is evidence that people can improve their working memory – and possibly their intelligence – by practicing” (Minkel; 2010). Knowing this, we can understand why thinking and mental exercises are recommended for our brain well-being. The extraordinary and ultimate challenge is to harness the power and treasures of memory; to embrace and learn from whatever experience life puts us through.


Tulving, E. (2000). Memory: An overview. In A. E. Kazdin (Eds.). Encyclopedia of Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, Volume 5, pp. 161-162.

McLeod, S. A. (2013). Memory stages: Coding of storage and retrieval. Simply psychology.

Madore, K. P., Addis, D. R., & Schacter, D. L. (2015). Creativity and memory: Effects of an episodic-specificity induction on divergent thinking. Psychological Science, 26 (9), 1461-8.

The editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. (Last updated: April 18, 2019). Memory. Encyclopedia Britannica: Encyclopedia Britannica, inc.

O’Shea, M. (2005). The Brain: A very brief introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mayda, A. (2010). Memory and forgetfulness. Fountain Magazine, Issue: 73.

Coruh, H. (2012). Poor memory and its causes. Fountain Magazine, Issue: 87.

Campbell, D. T. (1960). Blind variation and selective restraint in creative thought as in other knowledge processes. Psychological Review, 67 (6), 380-400.

Minkel, JR. (2010). Simple memory tests predict intelligence. Live science.