Improving Your Memory
MEMORY AND LEARNING
hard to focus on anything very long if your life is full of daily distractions and competing responsibilities or if you’re
not getting enough sleep.
This makes it easy to blame a poor memory on the way we live.
But obviously, to do well in college -
and in life - it’s
important that you improve your ability to remember.
As one writer
says, “there is no learning without memory.” On the other hand, not
all memory involves real learning.
If you know the date the Civil War began and the fort where the first shots were fired, but you don’t
really know why the Civil War was fought, you’re missing the point of a college education. College is about deep learning, understanding the “why” and “how” behind
So don’t forget that while recall of specific facts is certainly necessary, it isn’t sufficient
to demonstrate deep learning.
HOW MEMORY WORKS
In your text, Kenneth Higbee (1988) describes two different types of memory, Short-term memory and
Short term memory is
where information is initially stored, however, its important to note that information stored in short term memory is forgotten
in less than thirty seconds (and sometime much faster) unless you take action to either keep that information in short term
memory or move it to long term memory.
While short-term memory is significantly limited, it has a number of uses. It serves as an immediate but temporary holding tank for information.
It helps you to maintain reasonable attention so that you can keep track of topics as you converse. It also enables you to stay on task with goals you aare pursuing at any moment.
But even these simple functions of short-term memory fail on occasion. If the telephone rings, if someone asks you a question, if you’re interrupted in any way, you may
find that your attention suffers and that you essentially have to start over in reconstructing short-term memory. (I’m sure you have had the experience of having to say “Now Where were We” or if you didn’t get to say something in a conversation when it was on your
mind, you completely forget what you wanted to say in the first place).
Long-term memory is the type of memory that you will need to improve in order to remember what you’re learning in
college. It can be described in three ways:
“procedural”, remembering how to do something such as solving a mathematical problem or playing a musical
instrument: “semantic”, remembering facts and meanings without remembering where and when you learned those things;
and “episodic”, remembering particular events, their time and place.
EXAMPLES OF EACH ARE:
You are using procedural memory
when you get on a bicycle you haven’t ridden in years, or when you recall the first piece you learned to play on the
Your semantic memory is used continuously
to recall word meanings or important dates, such as your mother’s or father’s birthday.
Episodic memory allows you to remember events
in which you were involved: a vacation, your first day in school, when you first learn to drive a car.
Kenneth Higbee suggests that there are myths about memory
that you may have heard or may even believe yourself. Here some:
Some people are stuck with bad memories (Although there are probably some differences among people
in innate memory, what really gives you the edge over someone else is your learned memory skills. Virtually anyone can improve the ability to remember and recall.
Some people have photographic memories
(There are a few people with truly exceptional memories, most research
has found that these abilities are more often the function of learned memory strategies, interest, and practice rather than
Remembering too much can clutter your mind (For all practical purposes,
the storage capacity of your memory is unlimited. In fact, the more you learn
about a particular topic, the easier it is to learn even more.
People us only abut 10 percent of their brain power (No scientific research is available to measure accurately how of our brain we actually
use. However, most psychologists and learning specialists believe that we all
have far more mental ability than we actually tap.
WAYS OR STRATEGIES TO AID MEMORY
The human has discovered ingenious ways to remember information.
Text the authors listed a number of methods for assisting you in remembering, some so obvious that
I don’ understand why they were even listed ((such as “pay attention
to what you are hearing”).
Nevertheless, here are a few that did seem helpful:
Don’ rely on studying just once before an exam (that’s cramming)
Study in groups (group members can test each other and challenge each
others interpretation of the material).
Avoid pre-exam all-nighters (again this is cramming and the deprivation
of sleep may more detrimental to memory than not studying at all).
Say it over and over (probably the most time tested memory technique
is reciting whatever you’re trying to remember over and over out loud).
Reduce stressor in your life (Although
there’s no way to determine how much worry or stress causes you to gorger, most people will agree that stress can be
Mnemonics are unusual
and somewhat artificial strategies for remembering information. These memory
tricks tend to fall into four basic categories:
or new words created from beginning letters of several words. The Great Lakes
can be more easily recalled by remembering the word HOMES for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie,
An acrostic is a verse in which certain letters of each word or line form a message.
Many music students were taught the scales by remembering “Every Good Boy Does Fine” – E,G,B, D,
Rhymes that can be said or sung. Do you remember learning “thirty
days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have thirty-one,
except February alone. It has twenty-eight days time, but in leap years it has
twenty-nine”? You were using a mnemonic rhyming technique to remember the
days in each month.
TECHNOLOGY - A HELP OR A HINDRANCE TO MEMORY?
PDA’S (personal digital assistant), a computer calendar, or a watch that beeps when you have
an appointment are just a few of the devices that can help you remember. But
there may be a danger to becoming too dependent on technology and losing trust in your memory.
(use it or loose it concept)
WORKING TOGETHER: Creating an Acrostic
Working in a group, select a list of words that someone in the group needs to remember. You might select Famous composer of the Romantic period. Using
the first letters of each word, create a sentence that everyone can remember. (For
instance the composers Liszt, Chopin, Berlioz, Schumann, and Wagner could be remembered by remembering the sentence Let’s
Call Brother While Sister Waits.) PRESENT TO THE CLASS