Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that memory is closely related to emotions and imagination. Do you remember a specific time in your life, whether it be 5, 10, or 15 years ago, when you felt extremely embarrassed, angry, or sad- Chances are you remember this particular event in your life with striking clarity, from the people present at that day and time, to the look of the surroundings, or even the smell of the air where you were.
Studies have repeatedly shown that emotions can double the amount of information you can remember, a psychological effect known as depth of processing. Scott Young has brought to my attention a study on memory, conducted in 1969 by James Jenkins and Thomas Hyde. They basically split a group of student in two, and told one half they would need to remember a list of words for a later test, while the other half was not told to memorize it. Out of this same group, one half was told to make a mental note of whether the word contained the letter 'E'. The other was asked to decide whether the word was pleasant to them or not.
The results were fascinating. It turned out being warned about the upcoming test didn't make any difference on the students' results. Motivation, it turns out, didn't have a large impact on memory.
Instead, the orienting task given made almost double the difference. Students told to reflect on the pleasantness of the word recalled almost twice as much as the students told to recognize if the word contained an 'E'. This was true whether or not they were warned about an upcoming test.
So the moral of this story- Put in your emotions. Be interested in what you are learning. When learning new vocabulary, names, or concepts, reflect on the pleasantness of those. Be excited, motivated, and passionate. Does anything sound similar to another word or idea you've heard before, to which you already have emotions or experiences associated with- Doing boring stuff (such as going through grammar books) will ensure that information will escape your brain almost as soon as it enters it.
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