How do we remember stuff?
Why is it that we remember useless trivia and forget important information, often, just when we need it most? Our success at school or college is largely dependent on our ability to memorize things. In fact, our whole educational systems is built on Rote learning or a memorization technique based on repetition.
What is Memory?
In short, memory is learning that persists or learning is memory that has persisted. Intelligence is measured in a variety of ways, but to a large extent, our ability to pass our exams clearly rests on our capacity to remember things. The good news is that memory as a skill can be improved to the limits of our potential.
Why do we forget?
It’s possible that we have not learned the material well. If something has to be retained, it must be correctly, clearly and forcibly impressed on the mind. We must give it the necessary attention and interest, inculcating questioning and periodic reviews.
Then there is something called defensive forgetting. Generally people, in particular pessimists, remember unpleasant events more often than pleasant ones, and both pleasant and unpleasant events are remembered better than things we are indifferent to. Freudian theory holds that unpleasant things are often barred from consciousness.
It’s important to note that memories fade away rapidly when not reviewed or used. To be permanently etched in our minds, constant usage is important. We can easily remember the ideas and information that we turn our attention to often, while we can quickly forget things that we “touch” only once or twice. This natural forgetfulness of information we rarely touch is a quality of a healthy mind; after all, why store information we don’t need? So we communicate to our mind, that what’s important to convert to permanent memory is measured by the number of times we access the information. The Curve of Forgetting demonstrates that we forget 40% of what we learn in the first 24 hours; then it proceeds to decline slowly, but constant use and retrieval can help us overcome this problem.
But “forgotten” material can be relearned in less time than is required for the original learning, even after many years’ of disuse.
How do we improve our memory?
Focus on the material intensely and wholly – Nothing else should enter your mind. Look for key words that you can recall and repeat it often.
Interest – Ask questions to stimulate interest. Take part or sides in the problems, issues and subjects you are reading about.
Intention – Aim to remember as if your life depends on it.
Select and concentrate on the most significant things, the essential and the important – You cannot, and neither are you expected to get 100%, so give your most intense attention to what is new, difficult and important.
Over learn – When you are sure you know it, and if you can recall it instantly, you have over learned it. The more important and difficult the learning, the more you should over learn it and reinforce it with frequent reviews.
This way you can remember important information better and recall it faster.
-R.A.Nadesan is a Business coach who focuses on EQ, strengths based coaching and innovation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org