Pay attention and focus
The first two steps are perhaps the most critical. If you are at the
office and are reading emails and the phone rings stop reading, pick up
your note pad and pen, and listen to what the caller has to say,
otherwise you are dipping into the same resource pool and will come up
dry in the end!
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
- Pay attention
- Focus on just one thing at a time (remember the ressource pools)
- Repeat, rehearse and write things down in a notebook
- Elaborate on the information and create associations in your head
Repeat, rehearsing and take notes
We have seen that we sometimes repeat items to be encoded over and
over again to get them into our memory (e.g. a phone number). This can
help us to consolidate the information. Another tip to help you do this
is to write down the information you are repeating in your head. In
doing so you are adding an extra level of processing or rehearsing and
the more you rehearse, the better the chance of you remembering it.
Also, try to put your notes in one place like in a notebook or agenda,
little pieces of paper get lost as will the important information on
Keep in mind that only a small amount of information can be stored in
short-term memory (7 +- 2 items). The more information you try to
process at once, the greater the chances of forgetting. Also, for
information to make its way from short-term to long-term memory we must
work on it within 15-30 seconds, otherwise we will forget it.
Finally, elaborate on the information. This is the most effective way
of ensuring a strong memory trace. In fact, it is much better than
repetition or rehearsal. To elaborate we create associations between
different types of information. If you need to remember a person’s name,
associate it with a characteristic. “Bob was dressed in blue or “Bob
looks like Brad Pitt (lucky Bob!). You are elaborating, or
building a story and creating associations with things already in your
memory. When the time comes to remember Bob’s name, the association that
your brain created with Brad Pitt will get cued, and you will likely
remember Bob’s name (but beware…don’t call him ‘Brad’!).
Elaboration is the best way to ensure a superb memory trace of information.
For Moms and Dads
Here is a little extra for your studying children. If they are listening
to music (with words) or have the TV on in the background while they
are doing their homework, they are decreasing their chances of picking
out the relevant information due to shared resources i.e.
verbal-verbal. Focusing on one task at a time is essential!
In my biology class I created the following story of associations to
learn where the immune system’s IgA antibody was found in the body. IGA
happens to be a supermarket in Quebec, so: I get to the grocery store
and I first pick up milk, but I am very hungry and smell the food
samples cooking, so I salivate, when I get to the cash to pay I realize I
have no money, so I cry. The IgA antibody is found in milk, saliva and
By the way….I took my biology class in 1999!
You need not always go into as much detail as I did for my class but
by establishing associations with what you want to remember and what you
know, you elaborate on this information and increase the chance of
learning and remembering it.