How to improve memory

How to improve memory

In ancient Greek and Roman times, memory was greatly valued – the word itself comes from the name of the Greek goddess of memory, Mnemosyne. Roman senators had to address the senate without written notes, so they perfected ways of improving their memories, and identified the two main principles underlying conscious memory: imagination and association. You associate the thing you want to remember with something fixed, and then you use your imagination to make the picture as vivid as possible. The Romans associated their ideas with fixed points around the room they were talking in, and then referred to them (which gives the English expressions: In the first place …, in the second place …, etc.) The peg-word and link-word systems involve learning a series of items linked to numbers (1=sun, 2=shoe, etc, or a phonetic system which can run into the thousands). This is the list to which you then ‘peg’ the items you wish to remember by creating vivid images involving the peg word and the item to be remembered. Alternatively create a story in which a series of items are linked sequentially.

We remember

• information important for our survival
• what we find meaningful
• what we give attention to
• what we practise
• what we link to things we already know
• what we encode using mnemonics, etc

The main things which naturally help information move into long-term memory are: emotional  impact, repetition and urgent need.

The principles you can use to help you memorise things are:

• imagination: Make mental pictures
• association: Find as many links with other things as you can
• exaggeration: Make things bigger, brighter, louder
• absurdity: Imagine ridiculous associations
• humour: Make things funny
• colour: Try colour-coding associated items and ideas
• sensuality: Involve as many senses as possible
• sexuality: We remember things connected with sex
• movement: Link items to movements, gestures and facial expressions
• order and sequence: Things are easier to remember if they are ordered or
sequenced (just putting items and objects into categories can be enough to
remember them)
• songs, rhymes, jingles and raps: These are natural memory enhancers

Review periods

The most effective review periods to ensure things are retained are after 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week, 1 month
(From Transforming Learning: Introducing SEAL Approaches by Susan Norman)

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