Improving Your Memory
Psychological research has focused on a number of basic principles that help memory: meaningfulness, organization, association, and visualization. It is useful to know how these principles work.
Meaningfulness affects memory at all levels. Information that does not make any sense to you is difficult to remember. There are several ways in which we can make material more meaningful. Many people, for instance, learn a rhyme to help them remember. Do you know the rhyme “Thirty days has September, April, June, and November…? ” It helps many people remember which months of the year have 30 days.
Organization also makes a difference in our ability to remember. How useful would a library be if the books were kept in random order? Material that is organized is better remembered than jumbled information. One example of organization is chunking. Chunking consists of grouping separate bits of information. For example, the number 4671363 is more easily remembered if it is chunked as 467,13,63. Categorizing is another means of organization. Suppose you are asked to remember the following list of words: man, bench, dog, desk, woman, horse, child, cat, chair. Many people will group the words into similar categories and remember them as follows: man, woman, child; cat, dog, horse; bench, chair, desk. Needless to say, the second list can be remembered more easily than the first one.
Association refers to taking the material we want to remember and relating it to something we remember accurately. In memorizing a number, you might try to associate it with familiar numbers or events. For example, the height of Mount Fuji in Japan - 12, 389 feet - might be remembered using the following associations: 12 is the number of months in the year, and 389 is the number of days in a year (365) added to the number of months twice (24).
The last principle is visualization. Research has shown striking improvements in many types of memory tasks when people are asked to visualize the items to be remembered. In one study, subjects in one group were asked to learn some words using imagery, while the second group used repetition to learn the words. Those using imagery remembered 80 to 90 percent of the words, compared with 30 to 40 percent of the words for those who memorized by repetition. Thus forming an integrated image with all the information placed in a single mental picture can help us to preserve a memory.