Week 17 (27 March – 2 April): Memory

I really like memory as a psychology topic; it is something we can all relate to. After all, we all are conscious of trying to remember things, the strategies we use to remember things, forgetting, and what memory does for us. It’s weird reflecting on how much is going on in our brains to support doing the simplest things; it never fails to leave me awestruck and feeling a little foolish since I feel like we waste so much of our potential doing trivial things like remembering all the movies that Justin Bieber has been in but not being able to remember the seven sins of memory!

With a little work, though, we can improve our memories. I remember being in university and being very frustrated by constantly loosing my keys in my house and spending too much time searching for them. One day, I stood there in my apartment and thought, all I need to do is be aware of where I put them. The next time I put my keys down, I paused, looked at them, and said, “they’re right there!” I remembered where they were. Then, I made a place for them by the door. I put them there every time and I don’t misplace them nearly as much.

I extended this practice. I often put something down nowadays and pause and think, “I could easily forget where this is, but now I’ll remember it is right here.” Just that pause and focus on what it is and where it is helps me fix it in my memory just long enough to find it again. This is a good example of absent-mindedness and how to overcome it. It takes concentration and a bit of discipline.

It is funny that for me, just saying to myself, “I’m not going to forget this,” I don’t forget it. I do this often with appointments and deadlines. Somehow that clarity of mind helps me consolidate the memory and then retrieve it. Perhaps it also creates a cue concerning the date, time, or place so that when I think of the date, time, or place, I remember that I have something to remember and retrieve it. Does that make sense?

Another thing I like to do is rehearsal. I go over things over and over and over again. It helps that I run distance. You have a lot of time. I run for an hour or more five times a week. That is five to ten hours a week where all I have to do is THINK. It is great rehearsal time. I go back over the events from my day, upcoming plans, everything. This kind of review and rehearsal helps me fight transience and later blocking. I can produce meaningful organization in my thoughts by linking things together and figuring out how they are similar and how they are dissimilar. I find that the strength of these links helps me to recall and not just recognize.

Just now I ran through the Seven Sins of Memory. Know what I used? Our method of loci: the alphabet:

  • A: Absent-mindedness
  • B: Blocking
  • C: Creative memories (suggestibility)
  • D: Distortion
  • E: pErsistence
  • F: Fading (transience)
  • G: George Harrison (misattribution)

One last thing, reconstructive! The idea of memory being reconstructive gets me every time because it gives me that image of “chaining” through your mind. Chaining being following on link in a chain to the next. So, you go from the visual image that is part of the memory, to the auditory, to the sensation, to the thoughts that are associated with it. Using each link to get to the next. The image for me of taking the disparate parts of a memory that are stored in the various cerebral cortices and then reconstructing the memory in my pre-frontal cortex helps me remember things. Maybe it gives me confidence that I can do it. Or maybe the image helps me strengthen the links.

Reconstruction of memory then makes each memory vulnerable to distortion. All you have to do is make a small mistake in the pieces that you are putting together and you’ve distorted or misattributed or suggested something to yourself and then the memory is inaccurate.

Don’t be in such a hurry to “learn” all of this stuff about memory that you don’t take a moment to have fun with it!


2 thoughts on “Week 17 (27 March – 2 April): Memory

  1. physicsplusmath says:

    Another strategy of preventing yourself from forgetting where you put your keys is to do the same thing every single time. For example, I always put my keys on my table immediately after coming home. I never forget it thus, even though I am not always conscious of doing so.

  2. Mr. M. says:

    Yes that is a good method. Unfortunately, as I did today, I sometimes forget to pick them up if I’m distracted as I go out the door. Maybe I should start putting them further from the door!

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