People commonly speak of “memorizing” new facts or, more broadly, of “learning” new material. However, psychologists prefer the term memory acquisition and use it to include cases of deliberate memorization (intentional learning) as well as cases of inci-dental learning—learning that takes place without any intention to memorize andoften without the awareness that learning is actually occurring. (You know that grass is green and the sky is blue, and you probably can easily recall what you had for dinner yes-terday, but you didn’t set out to memorize these facts; the learning, therefore, was incidental.)
Memory acquisition is not just a matter of “copying” an event or a fact into memory, the way a camera copies an image onto film. Instead, acquisition requires some intellectual engagement with the material—thinking about it in some way— and it’s then the product of this engagement (i.e., what you thought about during the event) that’s stored in memory. As we’ll see, this simple point turns out to have crucial implications for what you will remember and for how accurate (i.e., true to the actual history) your memory will be.