Improving Your Memory
Poor Memory is a Myth
You do not have a weak memory, even though you think so. In fact, did you know you don’t even have a “memory” or “place” in your brain where you store pictures or information? Memory is actually a mental activity by which information is “impressed” either faintly or strongly in your nervous system. Be encouraged! You can organize and direct your mental activity, or remembering, to make strong information “impressions” (neural traces). In other words, you can remember–lots better than you do now. “How?” you ask. Follow these principles:
The Four R’s of Remembering
RESOLVE: Have a serious intention to remember the lecture or textbook material. This differs from trying to concentrate. When you try to concentrate, you focus on your own emotions and mental condition. Don’t do this. Simply try to remember the information–your focus is then on the subject instead of yourself. This way, you will remember the information better. Research claims that one of the most important factors in a memory task is the “predisposition to remember.”
REACT: Actively respond to the things you want to remember. Becoming a more highly reactive person has the side benefit of raising your level of mental activity in general. When you get involved in a subject by reacting several ways, it won’t “pass in one ear and out the other.” Ways you can react: Think about it, making a picture of it mentally, write it down, generate a feeling (emotional research) to it, talk it over (to self or others), or apply it practically to daily life activities.
REFLECT: Think deeply about the information you want to remember. Associate the new idea or fact with something you already know about and are interested in. Make an analogy (comparison of similar aspects) between your subject and what you already knew. For example, when presented with the fact that a tomato is really a fruit, connect the information with all that you know about the category “fruits.” Asking yourself questions helps you associate facts and ideas. For example, ask what the qualities of a tomato are that cause it to be categorized as a fruit. The more interested you become, and the more you learn about this fact, the better you will remember it.
REFRESH: Brush up your memories as soon as you learn the new information. Review immediately to make stronger “neural traces” or “information impressions” in your brain. To make sure you don’t start forgetting the information, go over it (preferably from notes, so you don’t recall it inaccurately) right after class or study session, once again at bedtime, and then a few times in the following two weeks. If you wait till the semester ends, you’ll have to relearn the material by cramming. By refreshing right away, you’ll really learn and remember the material.