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 Improve Memory Guide - Memory Improvement Techniques

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rock82



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PostSubject: Improve Memory Guide - Memory Improvement Techniques   Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:31 pm

How does our memory work?

We remember things by association. Every piece of information in our memory is connected to other pieces in some way or another. For example, if you are given the word "apple", what do you think of? Perhaps something like this:

APPLE: red, round, sweet, teacher, tree, fruit
But it's unlikely that we might see "apple" and think of "dog" (unless you remember some funny incident in which your dog investigated an apple). And what if you were asked what the 7th letter of the alphabet was? Chances are, you wouldn't know that "G = 7," but you could easily think to yourself, "A B C D E F G," and then say "G". You used association to get to the letter G, because you knew A was the first letter, then you kept choosing the next letter in the sequence until you got to the right one.

Why do most of us have a bad memory?

Most of us don't. Most of us have a really good memory, but we just don't have practice in using it efficiently.

If the above is true, then why is it so hard for me to remember things?
As stated before, our memory works by association. If there is no obvious association between things, it's very difficult to remember them. For example, suppose you needed to remember that your plane takes off at 2 P.M. There is nothing about the plane that would suggest the number 2 more than it would any other number (at least at first glance). Therefore, 2 is easily forgotten. Likewise, how does your best friend relate to his phone number, an arbitrary string of digits? Or how does a new word, like "hypothalamus," relate to what it represents?
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rock82



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PostSubject: How can we learn to remember things better?   Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:32 pm

Simple. If memory works by association, we actively work to create an association between two bits of information. For example, for the plane that we need to catch at 2 P.M., we can imagine the plane in our mind, and notice that it has 2 wings. Two wings, 2 P.M. There's an association. We are now ten times more likely to remember the take-off time long after it has faded from our short-term memory.

Sometimes an association comes very easily. For example, suppose you are introduced to a Mr. Hill who lives on a hill at the end of town. Mr. Hill on a hill. Pretty easy, huh? Or what if you're trying to remember the classroom number for a Chemistry class, and it just so turns out that it's the same as your dorm room number. Another natural association! Do you think you'll have a problem remembering it?

When pieces of information are not obviously related in any way, however, we have to be a bit more creative in linking things together. But it isn't as hard as it seems. Most of us learned rhymes and acronyms in school that helped us remember things. Do any of the following look familiar to you?

i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in neighbor and weigh (rule for remembering ei or ie)
ROY G. BIV (colors of the rainbow)
All cows eat grass; Every good boy does fine (notes of musical scale) Never eat sour watermelons (directions on a compass) Why do they work? Because they form an easy-to-remember and clever association between themselves and the information that is to be remembered.

The idea is to be creative and clever. You don't have to invent a rhyme or a poem every time you want to remember something, though -- just think of a picture in your mind that links pieces of information together, preferably something unusual or silly so it is more memorable. For example, suppose you want to remember that the football field is on Maple Street. You might imagine in your mind a burly football player eating a football for breakfast... he pours some maple syrup on the football, cuts off a chunk and eats it!

To demonstrate how effectively this works, look at the following list of words, and try to come up with an association between the left word and the right word of each row. Some will be easy; others may be harder. As an example, for the first pair, you might want to imagine a mouse that has a long, wavy tail that is in the shape of the letter S.

mouse S
fur R
train bridge
moat boat
popcorn chair
elephant pancake
toothbrush canal
umbrella triangle

After you have formed the associations (if you had trouble on one or two of them, that's okay; just skip them for now), cover up the right side of the list and then try to name the word associated with each word on the left. If you formed vivid, clear associations, you may be surprised at how quickly and easily you were able to remember everything!
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rock82



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PostSubject: Memory Improvement by Association - More About Association   Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:33 pm

At this point, you may be somewhat skeptical at this new memorization scheme that I am proposing to you. You may be asking, "Are you telling me that every time I need to memorize something important, I'm supposed to invent some clever or silly association between pieces of information?" The answer is, yes! It is a time-proven method that works, and it is consistent

with what psychologists have discovered about the human memory. We know that memory works best by association, and we are simply taking advantage of that property to help us remember things more easily.

Here are some other properties of memory:

Law of Recency:

We are more likely to remember things that happened recently than those that happened a long time ago. You can probably remember what you had for dinner yesterday, but not what you ate for dinner two weeks ago today.

Law of Vividness:
We tend to remember things we experience the most often, rather than those we experience only once in a while. You are much more likely to remember your name or your phone number than the square root of 3 (unless you are a mathematician).

We can take advantage of these laws, too. For example, we all know that if we repeat a word or phrase 20 times, we can remember it more easily.

What about the "Law of vividness?" Well, suppose we wanted to memorize the pair of words "trowel" and "cake". We might think of our using a trowel to pick up part of a cake-like chunk of cement. Or what about this: a little girl walks up to a table which you are seated at, carrying a trowel. Smiling, she lifts it up and shoves it right into your beautiful birthday cake! Which of these two associations is easier to remember? Surely, the second one, because it's much more vivid. This is why, when we try to invent associations, the rule is: "the sillier, the better!"
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rock82



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PostSubject: What if I memorize too many "bits and pieces of useless information"?   Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:34 pm

As far as psychologists can tell, the human brain has a limitless capacity for holding information. This means that our brains will never "fill up." New information may, however, interfere with information learned in the past, making the older information more difficult to remember. To avoid this problem, a little "management" may be required.

For temporary things, such as memorizing the time of a doctor's appointment or the name of some person you are going to call once (but not ever again), do nothing. Because we no longer need this information, eventually we will forget it.

For more permanent things, such as memorizing trivia facts, phone numbers, license plates, etc., deliberately go back over all the things you've learned on a particular day and think of the pictures you came up with again. Do this every few hours or so. Then recall the new information once a day for a few days. By the end of a week, the things you have memorized will have become almost permanently fixed.

What about all of the silly pictures? Will our minds be cluttered up with all of them? Probably not. If we recall a piece of information often enough, eventually we will no longer need the picture to remember it. Going back to the football field example, if you keep having to recall that it is on Maple Street, eventually you will think "Football field = Maple Street" without even thinking of the football player's strange breakfast. And if you no longer have to remember that picture, it will become forgotten... and perhaps even "recycled" and used again in a future association.

What if I can't think of an association?

All of the examples given thus far have had easy associations -- the association was either very obvious, or there were two words that could be pictured very easily together in the mind. But what about words that can't be pictured so easily? Don't panic, there are other techniques that can be used.

Suppose you want to memorize that James Barstow lives on Lincoln Street. Instinct should tell you to somehow link "Barstow" with "Lincoln," but neither word forms a nice mental picture. So let's make one by finding words that either sound like or are directly related to the real words we want to use. For "Barstow," you could choose "bar stove." For "Lincoln," you might think of a penny, for President Lincoln's picture is on a penny. You could then picture Mr. Barstow, serving drinks at a bar (never mind that he isn't really a bartender). He goes over to this funny-looking stove, which is made entirely out of copper. Four electric burners are on this stove, each looking just like a giant penny. He looks down at the burners, and President Lincoln winks at him!

How about applying this same technique to learn new vocabulary words? I remember having to learn about various parts of the brain in Psychology class, and I used memory techniques to quickly memorize all the new words. One of the parts was the "parietal lobe," the part of the cerebral cortex which interprets touch. I thought of a parrot (sounds sort of like "parietal") pecking at some food in my hand, and the brain feeling some sharp pain! Another part was the "temporal lobe," which interprets hearing. I thought of myself listening to a happy song with an up-beat tempo.
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