How Does Our Memory Work?
What’s up with forgetting? You run into your boss in the store and you can’t remember his name–it’s embarrassing. You’re there to buy four items and you can’t remember three of them–it’s annoying. You’re giving a speech and suddenly you can’t remember what you were going to say next–it’s humiliating. And let’s not forget tests: All year you’ve been studying European history, and suddenly you’re drawing a blank–who was Charles the Bald again? Where are they stored, these memories?
Many years ago, I wanted to improve my memory, so I bought a 7 Book course called “The Trent Memory System.” (known in the UK as “The Trent Plan”) It taught me that its impossible to remember everything that we experience, and you really wouldn’t want to if you could! People only remember things that are important to them, or are out of the ordinary, unusual, exaggerated, humorous etc.
Imagine that if you were on a beach one day and an Asian guy in a green kimono with a pigtail ran across the beach hitting people on the knees and toes. See the people running or hobbling away from this maniac, blood on the sand. Then see this lunatic jump into his car and drive away. The police and ambulance arrive, sirens blaring. Do you think that that you would remember something like that?
Imagine the description you’d give to the police as an eye-witness:
“I’ll never forget it officer! This crazy Asian guy with a pigtail and a green kimono was running across the beach hitting people with a hammer on the knees and toes! He hit three people, a big fat dude in blue speedos, a slim girl in a red polka dot bikini and a skinny teenage guy in green board shorts. There was blood everywhere! He then jumped into a yellow mini-minor with the rego plates of ‘LOONEYTUNE 69’ laughing his head off driving south down Coppertown Road.” See what I mean? Brings great mind pictures, yes? You would remember that event for the rest of your life if it happened, because it was SO UNUSUAL, and full of action.
The course mentioned that you can remember things using the acronym V.A.R.Y.
The first mechanism for good remembering is paying attention. You can’t remember what you never noticed. It sounds obvious, but memory problems often start right there. If you are reading boring text for a science exam, you will retain little of it. But if you are reading and making the text come alive with mind pictures that are exaggerated and humourous, you’ll find it a whole lot easier. Another example would be if you are chatting away and put down your keys without paying attention, you’ll probably have a hard time remembering where you left them. If you put them down and say aloud, “Wow, look at that! The keys are right next to the teledex,” guess what happens. You remember where you put, them, right next to the teledex!
The second mechanism is where it gets interesting. The brain remembers by forming links and slotting new information into existing frameworks. This is where you can work on improving your own memory processing to make sure you’ll be able to retrieve a memory later. Just like a train pulling freight cars along on a track
The third mechanism is repetition or by “Parrot Fashion.” Saying or doing something over and over tends to make it stick. That’s how most of us learned the multiplication tables, and it’s the method by which a lot of education is conducted. Although it works pretty well, it’s cumbersome, boring and its the hardest way to force things into our memories. If you rely only on repetition, people tend to look at you funny, because you’re constantly muttering things like “Charles the Bald, King of France, 843 AD.”
Yo-yo If you use the three methods above, your memory can be like a yo-yo. You throw out the string and make it come rolling back to you….most of the time. Practice makes perfect and memory, like the muscles of your body, the more you work out, the fitter and more skilful you become.
by the way …..Notice the use of size and colour in the acronym? You can use this to great advantage when you type text into Word documents. Why stick with black Times New Roman and size 12 font?
Mnemonics is the science of remembering.
It’s a bag of tricks designed to help a person remember data, especially isolated, mundane details–the type we have the hardest time holding onto.
Mnemonics relies on linking, clumping, and framing information. Greek orators invented it so they could give speeches without using notes, and people have been refining and expanding their techniques ever since.
To see this process in action, take a look at these ten letters:
G B I R A E O T G D
Rehearse them for a minute. Say them over and over again. Then cover them up, wait ten minutes, and try to write them down. Did you get them all? I didn’t think so.
Now, try the same letters arranged this way:
BIG RED GOAT
I bet you could look at them for three seconds and write them all down tomorrow. It’s easy because instead of dealing with ten letters, your working memory only had to take in one item: a phrase.
All the principles of mnemonics are tied up in that example.
The classic example was invented by those Greek orators as a way to remember the topics they intended to cover in a speech and in a given order. They would picture themselves walking through a familiar building, linking objects found in each room with sections of their speeches.
Impressing the wife
Here’s what you do to impress your wife with your incredible new memory.!
Picture yourself going through your home and planting topics in each room, using a mnemonic technique such as the ridiculous image. This is how I remembered the brand names and models of electrical goods in my home last week, (only to impress my wife, haha). I told her that our clock radio was a Kambrook, model No CR705, our TV’s were TEAC’s our fridge was a Kelvinator Opal, our stove was a Simpson 2001 (Townhouse Selection) microwave was a LG, with the Intellowave Sensor, washing machine was a Samsung, dryer was a Hoover and bar fridge was another Kelvinator, the “Impression” model. I also told her again the following week and will be able to do so again in 6 months time without any problem
Here’s how I did it
I looked at our alarm clock and saw a mental picture of that clock with an internal KAMera lens, bobbing in a BROOK I flipped it over and saw the Model was CR (Clock Radio) 705.
I used my number keywords to picture a cartoon mouse sporting a huge golden ring…Ring= 70 Mouse=5. See how to remember number at the bottom of this page).
I then went downstairs and saw that our TV in the front lounge room was a TEAC (Television Everyone Always Curses ) then raced into rumpus room and saw our other TV was also a TEAC! I went to the kitchen and saw that the fridge was a Kelvinator “Opal” and pictured a nerdy kid named Kelvin eating an opal. The bar fridge was also a Kelvinator so I socked it right in the front door, making an “Impression” The microwave was named after my daughter, Lisa Gow and I gave it a very intelligent wave, slowly waving my hand in big rolls. You might call that a real “Intellowave” of a microwave.
The oven had an old friend of mine baking inside, Mick Simpson, who I haven’t seen since 2001. I looked on the oven door and it had this logo I didn’t understand, “Townhouse Salt Lickedshun” or was it selection?
The washing machine named Sam has a funny electronic sound when it start, almost as if it sings, so its a SamSung. You wouldn’t believe what I saw on top of our bar fridge in the garage, its a giant vacuum cleaner, ( a Hoover) pretending to be a dryer!
So you can have a lot of fun thinking of ridiculous images to make memories more vivid in your mind, linking them to other images and use of occasional repetition.
How to remember speeches
I have to give a speech next weekend on how I went form running a successful pest control business to running my own Internet Marketing business. I’m going to use my home to help me remember key parts of my speech, just like the ancient Greeks remembered their speeches. I’ll walk inside my front door and see myself on TV in the lounge-room, being interviewed in my old Best Pest Control uniform by a reporter. that will remind me to say that I was the owner of a large pest control firm, blah blah blah…. I’ll crawl out of the TV (what a SOB!) that will remind me to say some people call me the SOB of SEO, and get confronted by a large angry lion.
That’s when I say, If you aren’t online when people are searching for your products and services, then your competitors are getting the lion’s share of the results, that should be going to YOU!
I’ll stroll into the sewing room and see my wife threading very large keys onto a very large needle. That will remind me to say, “In order to get the best results for your website, you need to do a lot of KEYword research and find out what words people are using to reach your products and services, more blah blah blah.
I’ll then enter my kitchen and see a King & Queen in full regalia. That will immediately remind me to say, ‘Have you heard the expression “Content is King”? blah blah. Then if you have heard that content is king, then links must surely be Queen blah blah’
Finally I look outside of my back door and I see my plants moving and growing at an enormous rate! That will lead me to say, If you are serious about seeing your business grow, then come and see me, Bruce Gow, and give the Google Guy a go!!
You can use the same or different rooms of your house for different speeches. For variety you may use other locations that you are familiar with, eg your parent’s home or work locations
How to remember 100 Number Keywords
Learn these in groups of ten, linking them together, one at a time. If you need to remember a long string of numbers, break them up into groups of two. When I first joined the Fire Brigade, part of our exam was to memorise all of the eighty odd fire stations by its station number. This is because firefighters have this as part of their jargon. It wouldn’t be unusual for a conversation to go. I worked at 43 stn the other night. We had this huge fire and 55, 73 and 27 all attended. The other guys took weeks to learn their stations, I learnt them all on the way into college on the train in a 45 minute trip. Memory techniques like this one are used by gamblers who “read” the cards at the casinos.
Use Your Fertile Imagination!
To remember the first ten keywords I imagine a book that has the legs head and tail of a cow, mooing around the field. I then use a cow that is chasing after a dog, snapping at its heels and barking. Then I have a dog chasing a huge lion up a tree. My next is a lion that is terrified of a mouse and jumps onto a chair to escape. A piano is about to be played when loads of mice come wriggling out. A torrential river has dozens of pianos bobbing around. Hear the splashing of water and the keys being played etc etc Get the picture? Always use separate memory links, otherwise they will get confused. Don’t have a book growing cow parts that is chasing after a dog, that is chasing a lion up a tree.
1 = B, 2=C, 3=D, 4=L, 5=M, 6=P, 7=R, 8=S, 9=T, 0=N. Notice that they are in alphabetical order? I have used the most common of the consonants so that they are easy to make into words. I call them the memory keyword consonants.
The hardest group of ten is the first lot, as they have only the initial memory keyword consonants. The second and subsequent groups use initial plus secondary memory keyword consonants, and are joined by an A, example BaBy = 11. If no words are easy to come up with use one of the other vowels. I don’t use BaCk because its a vague word and has two meanings, whereas BuCket can conjure up loads more ridiculous images. Same goes for Bed =13 instead of Bad Try memorizing in groups of ten and once you have it down pat, rehearse them in quite moments, like waiting at the doctor’s surgery, every six to 12 months
Embarking on a campaign to improve your memory? You’ll want to check out these helpful volumes:
The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas
Total Memory Workout: 8 Easy Steps to Maximum Memory Fitness by Cynthia R. Green
Your Memory: How It Works and How to Improve It by Kenneth L. Higbee
I have used the techniques as outlined in the Trent Memory course all my life. It has drastically reduced my study time, helped me remember faces, names and telephone numbers. But these memory systems a very well known and most books that are available for purchase or on loam from libraries used the same techniques, just in different forms. You will get the most advantage out of using these systems if you use your observation and memory often. Give up using notes and lists and get your memory and imagination to work!