There are several businesses on the market that offer solutions to achieve a better memory and to train your brain on how to access your memory in a more efficient manner: Videogames, interactive toys, online tests, puzzles, meditation techniques and the list goes on. Good memory is easily associated with an active and well functioning brain, therefore is no surprise that cognitive psychologists are interested in how we access our memories and continue experimenting in ways to improve it.
We will explore three of the most researched and effective methods, starting with Mental Image, followed by Concepts Formation and concluding with Schemas. We will introduce each method with a brief explanation, followed by examples and researched evidence that will support such claim.
Most of the adult population uses sematic thoughts, which means we prevalently use words when thinking. However there have been many studies demonstrating that when mental images are used in conjunction with verbal or written information, we are able to recall this information more easily. It also seems that this approach works better with bigger, brighter and unusual images. A practical example of this method has been demonstrated when learning a new language. Miachael Raugh and Ricahrd Atknson xxxxxxx developed a key word technique based on this concept. They believed that if we identify a word in our mother tongue and associate an image that sounds like the word of the language we want to learn, we would be able to remember a basic foreign vocabulary more easily.
For example, if we wanted to learn the French word ‘poubelle’ (which means ‘bin’ and it is pronounced pooh-bell) we would start with an english word that sounds like the French word, and create a mental image that associates that word with its translation. In this case we could picture ourselves lifting the lid of a bin, which looks like an upside-donw bell, and we pictured ourselves disgusted because it contains ‘pooh’. As mentioned before, the more the mental image is bizarre, then greater wil be the ability to recall it.
In 1975, Raugh and Atckinson used their key work technique in an experiment with 2 groups of participants. They were asked to learn a list of 60 spanish word, but only one group was introduced to the key word technique. When later they were tested, the group that didn’t use a mental image technique could remember only 28% of the words, where on the other hand the other group could identify 88% of them.
It is worth to note that researchers that want to measure the effectiveness of a technique often use this experiment model. As we will discover later with the other organisational memory methods, the researcher will always use an Independent Variable that will effect the result of the experiment (in the above scenario, the introduction of the key word technique) and a Dependent Variable, which is the measurable value as a result of the experiment (as above, the percentage of words recalled by the participants).
Mental imaging and visualization, is not a new concept. Over 2500 years ago, in the Ancient Greece, the poet Simonides developed the ‘method of loci’, which provides a technique for remembering a list of words by linking their image representation with a familiar sequence of locations. This is just one more example of mnemonic technique used to improve memory.
A natural way of remembering what is around us, is to group our thoughts in categories. Each category can have multiple sub-categories, so for example if we created a mental category for food, we would have sub-category for spicy food, or for Japanese food, or for cakes alone. Moreover, the cake category could include other sub-categories like for cakes with fruits, or cup-cakes, or vegan cakes. The use of this thoughts categorisation is what is called Concept Formation.
Although we naturally create concepts from an early stage of our learning process, we don’t use the terms of each concept too rigidly.