Methods of Storing Memories

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Methods of Storing Memories

1. Association of Ideas

The trick with this method is to link together in your mind something which you already know and remember well with the new information you want to remember.

For example:  I want to remember that the beautiful flowers in my border are called Agapanthus, but whenever I try to tell someone what they are, the information is not there ready in my mind.

So, I divide up the word to be remembered into two parts and come up with an Aga cooker and a panther.  As the flowers are blue my picture to remember is a blue Aga and a blue panther.  I make a mental picture in my mind of my flowerbed with a huge Aga cooker placed where the flowers are, and on top of the cooker sits a handsome panther.

As this is such a ridiculous and unlikely picture it is not difficult to remember, and I think about the scene many times over several days.  
The next time someone says, "What are those lovely flowers?", the picture I have memorised flashes unbidden into my mind and I can immediately say, "Agapanthus lilies."

Until you try the method for yourself you will imagine that this all takes ages and that you really haven't time to fill your mind with such a lot of useless clutter.
However, psychologists agree that unlike a computer, the human memory has no limits as regards what it can easily store, and you will find if you give this method a trial that it really works, and it is actually quite fun to think up the associations.

The next method is really an extension of the first, and if used in conjunction with associations,  enhances your chance of remembering the material.

2. Visualisation - remember in pictures

Pictures are much easier to store than abstract facts.
Some people say that they cannot visualise, but this seems to be very rare.  If asked, most people agree that they SEE in their mind's eye the time the chip pan caught fire, or when their child was the star in the school play.

3. Exaggeration and Humour
If you exaggerate certain features of your visualised picture and in addition, make it so that it appeals to your sense of humour and makes you laugh, then you are even more likely to remember it easily.  
We remember things which are out of the ordinary in some way, so exaggeration (as in a cartoon) is a real help to memory.
Maybe you could bring your favourite cartoon character into the picture as well.

I have discovered that it is of some use when you lie in bed at night and gaze into the darkness to repeat in your mind the things you have been studying.  Not only does it help the understanding, but also the memory.
Leonardo da Vinci


Use all the senses

If you can use not only your sense of sight but any or all of the other four senses in your remembrances, then as these pieces of information are all stored in different parts of the brain, you have many more chances of bringing the information back to mind when it is needed.

For example: Suppose that you met someone in the middle of a crowded city street who told you something you really wanted to remember.  You could mentally file it away not only as a picture of the occasion, but also remember the noise of the traffic and of his/her voice as you heard the news, the smell of the exhaust fumes, the feel of the hard pavement under your feet and perhaps even the taste of the gum you were chewing.   Every association is a help.

Give yourself enough TIME to store the information

Especially when you are new to the game, it takes time to make the necessary associations and visualisations.  This can be very difficult at a party for instance where you meet several new people in quick succession.  Once you have got into your routine for remembering names and making quick associations, it definitely gets easier, but to begin with you may have to withdraw a little from the socialising to get your thoughts sorted out.
Making notes later can be very useful.

Reiterate and repeat, repeat repeat ..........

Repetition is vital to the memory process, and when we were young we did a great deal of this with multiplication tables and spellings, with the result that many of these things learnt long ago are second nature. The fact is that by repeating something often enough a great number of connections are forged in the brain, and retrieval becomes easy and instantaneous.
So anything you want to be sure of remembering should be reviewed within an hour, then again several hours later, just before bedtime and then again the next day.  If we look at the facts again a week later and then after a month, the information should be fully embedded in memory.

Break material to be remembered into small chunks (and the reverse)

This title may seem contradictory, but the fact is that if you have something long and complicated to remember, then it is best to break it up into manageable chunks and memorise a piece at a time, gradually adding to the length of the memorised piece.
The reverse is also true in that, if you have a large number of single figures or words to remember, then it is much easier to carry them in your mind if you can join them together into 'chunks', so that maybe you would end up with 3 two figure numbers to remember, rather than six separate figures.
It is a proven fact that the short term memory can in most people only store seven items of information at a time, so the larger you can make each chunk, the better.

Do not attempt too much at any one time

There is also research evidence to prove that several short learning sessions are more fruitful than one long one.  We seem to remember best those things we hear or learn at the beginning and the end of a session, so the more beginnings and endings you can arrange, the better.

Learn where you are likely to want to remember

It is a quirky and interesting fact that we remember information best when placed in the physical and possibly mental context in which we learnt it.
Thus, if you want to remember information in the examination room, don't do all your revision on the beach.
Research was done with divers who had to learn strings of numbers when underwater.   When on dry land again, they were tested on what they had learnt, but could not easily retrieve the memories.  These were best recalled when they were again immersed in the water!

Rearrange material to be meaningful to you personally

Lists can be arranged in groupings of similar items, or so that they are similar to information with which you are already familiar, such as clock times, famous dates or sports records.

Say things out loud

Anything you are trying to remember will be more easily assimilated if you say the words out loud and really listen to yourself saying them.  It doesn't matter if those around think you are going mad, it's all in a good cause.

Be determined to remember

Life is meaningless without memory, so knowing this will help us all to be determined to do everything in our power to keep memory keen, and thus maintain our quality of life.

When, after all this hard work on memory, you still forget some things, don't be hard on yourself. Realise that everyone is in the same boat and take a minute to think of all the millions of things you do remember.

The man who thinks over his experiences most and weaves them into systematic relations with each other will be the one with the best memory.
William James


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