Before getting into best psychological techniques for improving memory, we need to understand What is memory? Memory is the ability of retaining information and reproducing it over a period of time when required to perform a cognitive task. It has been conceptualised as a
process comprising of three stages; (i) encoding, (ii) storage, and (iii) retrieval.
As memory is most crucial cognitive function for everyone. We need to understand & improve it for our daily life.
Four principles that govern the memory techniques.
1) Process for meaning: As you learn new material, focus should be on the meaning of the stimuli. To do this, one should avoid distraction. In the presence of distraction, we loose our attention towards meaning in what we want to learn and remember.
2) Retrieval process: This is related to retrieval practice. Generate and practice the items that you need to remember from memory rather than read or restudy. Self-testing is the best retrieval practice.
3) Metamemory: It is the awareness and knowledge of our own memories. It helps in reflecting and monitoring memory. This way, it may help in strategic planning, allocation of study hours/resources, evaluation of performance, etc.
4) Distributed learning or practice: This is a superior method than massed practice (i.e. conditions in which individuals practice a task continuously without rest) . So, one should avoid overflowing because it is an inefficient way of learning. Distributed practice helps in improved memory efficiency.
What are Mnemonics?
These are the techniques that aid in retrieving the information and also reduce the amount of forgetting. There are basically two broad categories of mnemonics; mnemonics uses images & Mnemonics uses principles of organization
1. Mnemonics uses images
Method of Loci:-
Placing images at location. Loci means position or place. This method uses the location of a familiar place as a cue to retrieve information. Suppose, you want to remember a list of objects that you want to buy from a nearby grocery store. The lists contain items like, potato, egg, tomato, washing powder and salt. Now to remember these items, first, visualise each of them to be located in some separate spatial location, such as, in different rooms of your house. Then, mentally go through your house visualising each item in a separate place. After reaching the market, all you need to do is to take another mental tour of your house
and recall the items you have placed in different location in a sequence.
Keyword method :-
It is appropriate for learning vocabulary and foreign language. In this method, any two pieces of information is linked using images. Now suppose, you want to extend your vocabulary for English language. You come across
a word “scowl” which stands for “an angry or bad-tempered expression”. In order to learn its meaning, first you need to find a keyword, a familiar word that sounds similar to the target word, scowl. Now, using an image try to relate your target
word with keyword. Since, the word ‘scowl’ sounds similar to owl, you can imagine a picture of owl with angry expression. Studies have suggested that this method of learning definition or vocabulary is far more superior than rote learning.
Mnemonics uses principles of organization –
It improves the ability to learn and retrieve information accurately by applying the principle of reorganization of the material to be learned.
It is a method of combining smaller units into meaningful larger units, such as, if you were asked to remember following series of number- 1-9-3-9-1-9-4-5. If you are well versed with world history, then, you can also group these numbers in the following ways;
1939-1945. WW2 started in 1939 and ended in 1945. In this way, you can memorise as well as recall these numbers more accurately. You can also chunk information by using it in a sentences, songs or phrases. Therefore, it can be suggested that it is another way to remember large information. The items are grouped together according to some similarity or common theme at the time of encoding. So, it is easier to recall a chunk of information than individual bits.
First Letter Technique/ Acronyms
In this technique, first letter of each word, you want to memorise, is taken to make a meaningful word or sentence. For example, colour of the rainbow can be remembered using this technique.
The word VIBGYOR stands for all the seven colours of rainbow. When the word is formed by taking the first letter or groups of letters from a name or phrase to be remembered. It helps in remembering the names of the events or the music notes with ease.
This involves using a similar sounding word at the end of each line of a verse. This enables to encode the information acoustically.