Use these techniques to improve your memory.
The tools in this section help you to improve your memory. They help you both to remember facts accurately and to remember the structure of information.
The tools are split into two sections. Firstly you'll learn the memory techniques themselves. Secondly we'll look at how you can use them in practice to remember peoples names, languages, exam information, and so on.
As with other mind tools, the more practice you give yourself with these techniques, the more effectively you will use them. This section contains many of the memory techniques used by stage memory performers. With enough practice and effort, you may be able to have a memory as good. Even if you do not have the time needed to develop this quality of memory, many of the techniques here are useful in everyday life.
'Mnemonic' is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are techniques for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall: A very simple example is the '30 days hath September' rhyme for remembering the number of days in each calendar month.
The idea behind using mnemonics is to encode difficult-to-remember information in a way that is much easier to remember.
Our brains evolved to code and interpret complex stimuli such as images, colors, structures, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, positions, emotions and language. We use these to make sophisticated models of the world we live in. Our memories store all of these very effectively.
Unfortunately, a lot of the information we have to remember in modern life is presented differently – as words printed on a page. While writing is a rich and sophisticated medium for conveying complex arguments, our brains do not easily encode written information, making it difficult to remember.
This section of Mind Tools shows you how to use all the memory resources available to you to remember information in a highly efficient way.
Using Your Whole Mind to Remember
The key idea is that by coding information using vivid mental images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. And because the images are vivid, they are easy to recall when you need them.
The techniques explained later on in this section show you how to code information vividly, using stories, strong mental images, familiar journeys, and so on.
You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:
- Use positive, pleasant images. Your brain often blocks out unpleasant ones.
- Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images – these are easier to remember than drab ones.
- Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
- Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
- Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image.
- Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
- Similarly, rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
- Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively.
Designing Mnemonics: Imagination, Association and Location
The three fundamental principles underlying the use of mnemonics are imagination, association and location. Working together, you can use these principles to generate powerful mnemonic systems.
Imagination: is what you use to create and strengthen the associations needed to create effective mnemonics. Your imagination is what you use to create mnemonics that are potent for you. The more strongly you imagine and visualize a situation, the more effectively it will stick in your mind for later recall. The imagery you use in your mnemonics can be as violent, vivid, or sensual as you like, as long as it helps you to remember.
Association: this is the method by which you link a thing to be remembered to a way of remembering it. You can create associations by:
- Placing things on top of each other.
- Crashing things together.
- Merging images together.
- Wrapping them around each other.
- Rotating them around each other or having them dancing together.
- Linking them using the same color, smell, shape, or feeling.
- As an example, you might link the number 1 with a goldfish by visualizing a 1-shaped spear being used to spear it.
Location: gives you two things: a coherent context into which you can place information so that it hangs together, and a way of separating one mnemonic from another. By setting one mnemonic in a particular town, I can separate it from a similar mnemonic set in a city. For example, by setting one in Wimbledon and another similar mnemonic with images of Manhattan, we can separate them with no danger of confusion. You can build the flavors and atmosphere of these places into your mnemonics to strengthen the feeling of location.
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When you sit down to study for exams, these memorization techniques can be effective in helping you accomplish your goal.
Use the following tips to better memorize your material:
Have you ever considered that, perhaps, simply reading your material isn’t cutting it because that’s not how you learn?
Try listening to your material – your brain is wired to absorb the information better! You can record yourself reading aloud.
Since some people don’t like the sound of their own voice, lots of people will trade the task with a classmate and record each other’s voices in order to hear someone else read the material aloud.
If you rewrite the information and, basically, translate it into common terms from the technical terms the textbook uses, it can be easier to learn. Also, you’ll likely absorb the information as you rewrite it.
If you’re a visual learner, this can be a great method for you to use. You can create visual study methods like diagrams, color-coding and by creating imagery in your head.
You likely still remember the order of operations acronym, PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), from grade school math, right? That’s because acronyms really work!
You’re never too old use any study method, as long as it works for you. Try to create acronyms for whatever you’re trying to memorize – you’ll likely catch on quickly.
Remember, it’s OK to be silly – as long as they help you memorize, it doesn’t matter what the acronym is!
A visualization method, mapping information can be a useful tool, especially for conceptual studies. Maps link concepts to one another, making them easier to memorize.
You can create your own maps or, even use an app to create one for you.
If you’re unable to do all of the readings or, even if you have done all the readings (which you should), skim through the material to absorb the most important pieces of information.
If you’re reading a textbook, they’re often the terms in bold and highlights at the end of each chapter.
Teach a Classmate
Teaching another person the material is one of the best ways to learn it because it reinforces the concepts within your own mind.
Get together with a classmate and take turns teaching one another to make sure you know your stuff before the exam.
Balance Your Workload
Take the entire amount you need to learn and divide it into smaller study sessions rather than one long cram session. You’ll likely much more focused if you have small amounts to accomplish.
For example, it’s a great idea to divide by chapters and take a small break after completing each one.
Make It Real
If you can relate a concept to your life or life around you, it will likely stick. It’s not always easy or applicable but, when able, try to find real life examples of whatever you’re learning to make it easier to recall.
This is a well-known study method that’s great – but only if you’re creating them correctly! When you create note-cards, your focus should be on key terms and concepts and their main points – not filling each note-card with an entire paragraph.
Here’s a great trick to making note-cards: you should be able to read the entire note-card at a glance.
Perhaps, creating note-cards in a Q&A format, question on one side, answer on the other, is a good way to stay on track.
Also, if you’re not into writing out on paper, there are plenty of web sites and apps that allow you to create note-cards and share them.
What additional study techniques do you use to help memorize material?
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