Improving Memory: Mnemonics
Help Me Remember
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Are you wondering if you are incapable of improving your memory because of your age? The honest truth is that there have been many studies that have confirmed that as people age, their memory deteriorates. According to Cavallini et al., 2003, quoting another study that was done, the working memory system has been suggested to be directly implicated in the memory deterioration process as you age. Additionally, the inefficient usage of certain cognitive functions can also account for the memory loss that occurs as we get older.
However, there are also some positive results from studies that have shown that memory in older people is not necessarily done for. There have been studies done that demonstrate that older people are definitely capable of not only encoding and retaining new information, but also applying different memory strategies-one of which will be discussed below-The Method of Loci. All in all, the point is that the aging process should not be looked at as a negative relationship to memory because it does have its gains as well. Have no fear-read below and start working on your memory techniques so that you too can age wisely...and remember all the reasons you are wise!
Method of Loci
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Of ancient origin, according to Bower, 1970, the method of loci is basically the following idea: "the use of an orderly arrangement of locations into which one could place the images of things or people that are to be remembered." What does this actually mean? In essence, to use the method of loci for memorization of a series of items, the following steps are necessary:
So, after you have these associations, how does it actually work? You are supposed to use your imagination and see the outrageous or exaggerated item that you are supposed to be remembering at the location that you associate it with. What happens is that after you are done with this list and you have associated all the items to these specific locations, you are supposed to reuse these location for any new list of items that you may encounter. But does the system work?
According to Bower, 1970, this method has definitely received its criticisms. Bower does however provide a study that shows the effectiveness of this mnemonic device. He talks of a study done by Ross & Lawrence, 1968, in which the experimenters asked their students to memorize long lists of items, each about 40 items long. Their task was to memorize the list using the method of loci and using 40 locations on the college campus. Each student recalled the list after each list was presented. What was found was that each student was able to recall the list. The next day, the students had to recall the list again and also remember a new list of items. The results showed that recall immediately after studying the lists averaged 38 out of 40 correct in serial order. And the day following, the average was 34 out of 40. Comparatively, these results were exemplary that the method of loci did in fact work.
Numeric Pegword System
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Another similar mnemonic device is called the numeric pegword system. The main difference between this system and the method of loci is that this system uses images of unrelated objects that are matched to about the first twenty integers. Some examples of the numeric pegword system are the following rhyming pairs: "one is a bun, two is a shoe, three is a tree, etc." The way this method and the method of loci differ is that the paired associates of "one is a bun" for example is then associated with the item to be remembered in the same way as the first location in the method of loci was used. To be more clear, the person is to imagine the item they are trying to remember in some type of relationship with a bun, and do this for the subsequent items with their interactions with the respective pegword system pairs.
Does this technique work? Well try it out for yourself. With a list of items to be remembered-try 10 for now-associate them with the following numeric pegword system using the following pairs: "one is a bun, two is a shoe, three is a tree, four is a door, five is a hive, six are sticks, seven is heaven, eight is a gate, nine is wine, and ten is a hen." After you have imagined the item you are remembering with the ten paired associates then see if you can recall the list just by using the pegword system and the mental image relationships you have constructed.
How did it go? Hopefully, you were able to remember the list and maybe this can become a method that you can use for remembering items. These two examples are just two of the many other methods used to remember items. They are all helpful in improving your memory and they allow you to use your cognitive abilities in an efficient manner. The use of your cognitive abilities and the application of various memory aids such as these two mnemonic devices will help you continue to exercise that brain muscle and help you remember some very important things. Maybe you could be on your way to becoming an expert with the simple application of these methods...!
You Got Them Right!
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© Copyright Victor Long, Chandra Singh, and David Snitkof 2005
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