Brain Upgrade

Brain Upgrade

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Memorizing Short Lists

Suppose you're going to the store for groceries and you need the following five items: eggs, bread, bacon, cheese and milk. How can you remember the list? For short lists, the easiest way is simply to "link" the words together in a long chain, like this:

  eggs -> bread -> bacon -> cheese -> milk

Then, think of some animated story in your mind to link the items together. For example, imagine walking to the store with a grocery bag in your hand. We start with a grocery bag because it's a grocery list -- it would be difficult to jump immediately to eggs. On a street corner someone appears from nowhere, hands you an egg then walks off. Dazed, you take the egg and drop it in the bag. It cracks and makes a mess. (The mess is a vivid picture in your mind that strengthens the picture of "egg" even more.) So by the time the next person comes out of nowhere and hands you a loaf of bread, you don't want to put it in the bag, so you carry it in your other hand. You hold it by the tie and it twirls as you walk.

This is a long story so far, but remember, you're not writing a story on paper, you're just thinking of it in your mind, so it goes rather quickly. In fact it often goes so quickly through your mind that the added, extra detail is very helpful in remembering later. The more ways you experience an object -- if you think of its appearance, its touch, its smell, etc. -- the more likely you'll remember it later!

Suddenly, there's bacon on the sidewalk as you're walking, and it crunches under your feet. The grease gets on your shoes. Next there's cheese on the ground, and you walk on it. Yuck! Now there's grease and gooey cheese on your shoes. When you get to the store, there's no restroom or water fountain, so you, strangely, just take a gallon of milk, open it, and pour it on your shoes to clean them! (Don't worry, this is only imagination -- you would never do this in real life!)

Wow, what an exciting finish to the story. Notice that we didn't just put all the grocery items in the bag one by one. The instances would be so similar we'd get them mixed up! So a lot of variety was used. The story was so fun that, no doubt, you can stop right now, look away from this document, think through the story again and remember perfectly the five items. Try it again tomorrow morning and see if you still remember!

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Donah Shine

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