If you have to remember lots of information to pass your subject and get a good grade then having a “great memory” is a must – and let’s face it, what student wouldn’t love to be able to recall facts and figures without any effort at all?
But how does our memory actually work? How come we can remember some information without any effort at all (often useless information like the names and theme songs of the cartoons we watched when we were children) yet often we when really want to remember certain things for tests or assignments we draw a blank?
The truth is, our memory works in precisely the manner that it is supposed to work. The real issue is that we have very little understanding (or no understanding at all) of the way it operates and how we can manipulate it to our advantage.
For one reason or another, we all seem to think that by constantly repeating information to ourselves we will imprint the information into our memory. This works occasionally, but it’s clearly not the best approach and it usually indicates that we don’t understand our memory at all.
The smart approach to memory recall is to first take the time to learn how your memory works and then manipulate your memory (in a good way!) in order to recall exactly what you need to remember for that next test or exam.
In this article we are going to look at one of many possible approaches you can use to improve your memory recall. It’s called the “What’s in it for me” approach. This approach tells us that the more you can tie something to yourself, the better you will be able to remember it.
When it comes to memory, your brain always wants to know “How does this relate to me?” or put even more simply “Why should I even bother storing this as a memory?”
When a piece of data from the world is relevant to you and impacts you in some way, your ability to remember it (and remember it in specific detail) is drastically increased.
It makes sense doesn’t it? You remember things that impact you. You remember to buy a ticket to see that band you like. You remember the number of the bus you need to catch today. You remember the names of those people whose names you wouldn’t dare forget.
You remember exactly what that girl or guy you like said to you the first time you met. The point is, when it impacts you and it’s important to you, you remember it.
Now, you don’t do this recall on a conscious basis, it just happens automatically. You simply called up the information and because it was important and relevant to you, it was easy to retrieve.
However, the real question I’m sure you are wondering is how do we apply this rule of memory to our studies? Well, you simple need to think about how whatever you are trying to learn or remember relates to you and your life. Let’s look at some examples.
Let’s say you are learning about economic trends (extremely interesting I know). Instead of just looking at economic bell curves and wondering how life could be so boring you need to make the information all about you.
Economic trends impact your purchasing power which impacts the amount of money in your wallet which impacts your ability to buy that thing you really want. So does that context make economic trends easier to remember?
What about learning about different cultures, beliefs and customs than yours? If you were to think about your own culture, beliefs and customs then you can easily compare the two to each other. Now, if you compare them to yourself you will remember them wont you?
How about names and dates and details? Well how do these names, dates and details impact you? Do you know anyone else by the same name that you can link them to? Are the dates significant to you personally, or your parents, or your friends, or your country? Why do the details matter to you? By the way, if you can’t think of anything just make it up. You’ll be surprised that even if you create false reasons you will still remember the reasons and thus the details!
The point is, take what you need to learn and make it about you. Most people enjoy being self-centered anyway so just extend on your natural inclination! The more you make it all about you and relate it back to yourself the more easily you will build memory traces and improve your memory recall. Give it a try, it really works. Good luck.
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