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Behavioral science explains how to create better customer memories for your brand.

Learn how HCPs and patients rely on their memories (good and bad) to make treatment decisions and brand choices.
ImageNewristics Image8 July 2019

What is memory?

Psychology defines memory as the capability of encoding, storing, and retrieving information. This can be grouped into 3 major categories which are sensory, short-term, and long-term. Although human memory has the potential to store and recall information, this process is not perfect. Have you ever forgotten your car keys? Or do you think you put them in your purse only to discover them on the counter? Sometimes people forget or misremember.

Our brain is a buzz with constant activity. There are groups of neurons (nerve cells) that are in charge of thoughts/perceptions. When a certain group of neurons is reactivated, that is memory! Due to synaptic plasticity, the persistent changes in strength connections (synapses) between brain cells, and how often these cells are activated make a stronger/weaker connection. This is why rehearsing or practicing lines strengthens our memory for the big performance.

3 stages of memory


You are in the earliest stage of memory. Environmental information is fleetingly stored for half a second (visual) to 3-4 seconds (auditory). Whatever environmental sensory information you choose to attend to goes on to the next stage - short-term memory - and the rest is lost.


If the information made it this far, it is in your active memory. This information has been elevated to enough importance that we know we are aware of or currently thinking about it. Like before, we need to attend to this information to pass it along to the next stage - long-term memory - or it also disappears.


Congrats! This information has made it to long-term storage. Although this information is basically out of our awareness, it can be recalled and used in our working memory when needed. That being said, sometimes we can conjure up memories easily but other times we struggle to recall all or part of this information.

Memories influence your future decision-making

As you have learned, memory is slippery, but what about the memories that stick around and are top of mind?

When evaluating events and the relative risks of different outcomes, people will give more importance to the examples that come easily to one’s mind. For instance, people might be afraid to go swimming in the ocean out of fear they will be attacked by a shark but will consume twice their intake of sodium despite knowing it is bad for their health. Sensational events such as shark attacks or terrorist incidents can imprint a vivid memory on our experience while more pernicious incidents, such as high blood pressure, don’t instill the same sense of fear or urgency.

A person evaluating the prevalence or likelihood of an event will often rely on related information that comes to his or her mind most easily. How easily something comes to mind can depend on recency of exposure, sensation, novelty, and other factors, but they often result in the overestimation of some events and underestimation of others. This effect is known as Availability Heuristic (heuristics are the process where humans use mental shortcuts, rather than rational and logical thinking, to reach decisions).


For example, an American may think Ebola is a significant risk because the disease is highly sensational and the news has been covering the outbreak in Africa. In reality, he is more likely to die as a result of not wearing his seatbelt. However, since car accidents are more routine and receive less media coverage, he does not consider this nearly as great of a risk as Ebola.

How to improve memory recall and accuracy

Memory is a skill that takes practice and decision heuristics come into play to complicate it further.

To combat Availability Heuristic, one can start by filtering their news and avoiding spending too much time absorbing the news. Second, it always helps to slow decisions down. Most importantly, we can nurture and develop our memory and give our memory a boost with healthy habits.

To get started try these 5 simple ways to boost your memory:


Playing and learning new games keeps your brain challenged and strengthens memory. Mind games that require strategy are the best for this purpose; think chess and crossword puzzles.


When you learn new information, repeat it and write it down. Trying other tools like mnemonic devices can reinforce learning. PEMDAS from math class is a great example. “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally” helps students quickly recall the order of mathematical operations (parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction).


A Healthy diet is always a common theme when working on self-improvement and for good reason. More brain food and less junk keep the mind sharp and have a cascade of benefits, including better sleep, less stress, and more. All of which are vital to learning and memory. Eat more plant-based food, whole grains, legumes, nuts, healthy fats, herbs, and spices.


Like a healthy diet, exercise has loads of benefits for our body and mind. As exercise improves oxygen and the delivery of nutrients to our body, it helps grow new brain cells vital for memory capacity. Start by walking more every day! 


Being in the present moment heightens our senses and reduces distractions. Making it a habit to meditate, do breathing exercises, and practice yoga will develop healthy habits for staying in the present, improving focus, concentration, memory, and overall learning.

Memory can deceive us. Increasing our awareness and trying new tools can help us store more information and improve the accuracy of our recall.