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Memorizing Techniques

by Sherry Li

         Do you ever wonder how some people can memorize things instantly? For example, Leonardo da Vinci is said to have possessed photographic memory. Swami Vivekananda is believed to have eidetic memory as he could memorize a book just by going through it for a single time. The mathematician John von Neumann was able to memorize a column of the phone book at a single glance. How do these people do it? Yes, they might be born naturally talented, however, in this article, we will discuss how we can train our minds to memorize things more efficiently.

Different Types of Memory

         Before we begin discussing how to memorize things, we should first learn about the different types of memory. The four main types of memory are working memory, episodic memory, semantic memory, associative memory, and prospective memory. 

       Working memory is used to store information for short periods. For example, working memory is needed to remember the numbers when you do a sum in your head. If you have problems with your working memory, it may take longer to figure something out. 

            Episodic memory is utilized to recall past events – recent or distant. You use episodic memory when you remember personal experiences, such as what you had for lunch or when you attended a family gathering. These memories also often include recalling emotions or feelings. Experiences that cause strong positive or negative feelings are easier to recall many years later. This is why people usually remember embarrassing events a long period of time later. 

          Semantic memory is used to remember the meanings of words or remember facts. You also use it to remember familiar faces or objects. This knowledge is not directly tied to any personal experience. For example, you just know a plate is for holding food or that a phone is used to call or text people.

       Associative memory refers to the ability to remember relationships between concepts, and not just the individual concepts themselves. For example this includes remembering how two words are related such as teachers and students, or seeing an object and knowing its alternate name. 

       Prospective memory is remembering things needed to be done in the future. For example, remembering appointments, taking a medication, or turning off the stove after cooking. All these types of memory have some relation to each other and they’re all very important skills to have.

Tips to Memorize Things

      Often if you have a test the next day or need to memorize a speech for a presentation the next day for work, being able to memorize quickly is a very useful skill. Below is a list of strategies to learn things quicker.

  • Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize.
  • Connect the information you are trying to memorize to something that you already know or to an image
  • Using mnemonics and abbreviations can help. Examples of this includes the elementary PEMDAS and Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally for basic calculations.
  • Studies show that your brain processes and stores information while you sleep so reviewing information just before you go to sleep even for a few minutes can help.
  • Do not simply reread notes or a textbook, quiz yourself and actively recall the information you are trying to study.
  • Writing it out can help some people remember information better.
  • Especially for speeches, giving to the speech to yourself can help you memorize.
  • The memory palace technique involves visualizing a familiar place (like your house) and using it as a visual space where you can deposit concept/images that you want to remember. Many memory masters use this method to remember things effectively. This TED talk https://youtu.be/U6PoUg7jXsA gives a demonstration of that.
  • Using as many of the five senses as possible when studying helps you use more parts of your brain and retain information better.
  • Writing out the first letter of each word of each phrase can help too. Many actors such as Robert Downey Jr. use this technique to memorize scripts.

       Above are just some tips to remember things more effectively. All of this requires much practice and some techniques might work better for some than others. There’s also many videos on memorizing effectively and just remember that everyone’s mind works differently, finding the best way for you is very important. A pun to end this off: “Are people born with photographic memories….or do they take a while to develop?”








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