Have you noticed that some of the ways we learned to memorize in school don’t really work anymore? If they ever did. We’ll talk about study and memorization tips to help you retrieve information from your memory. Memorization is actually a skill that you can practice, but it helps if you know the right way to do it. I found a neat site called Memorize Academy, founded and run by a memory coach, Kyle Buchanan. So maybe it’s not that your memory is failing, but you need to learn how to use it better.
I talked about how we learn (record), then retain (encode), and retrieve memories in my article: What Is Memory Anyway? Those elements are one thing the memory experts all agree on. For this article, I’m going to refer to them as record, encode, and retrieve. You should know that we can actually control how we file information away in our brain, making it a lot easier to retrieve. Let’s talk about how…
Long and Short Term Memory
We have short and long term memory. The key to memorizing is to get what we’re learning or trying to remember into our long term memory. Short term memory usually has to do with our senses: Taste, see, do, hear, touch. This happens in the cerebral cortex region of the brain. Long term memory has two types: Semantic (facts) and episodic (events). It is first stored in the hippocampus and then transferred to areas of the cerebrel cortex for later retrieval.
Our brains work by creating connections between related facts or events. And have you noticed you usually ‘picture’ things in your mind? According to Kyle Buchanan, human memory is predominantly visual. So we can use that.
As we learn new things, related to previous learning, it reinforces the previous learning too. And if we apply visual images to facts or events, it helps to cement it in our brains. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. This is probably why companies use logos. It’s visual and easy to remember. For example, the Nike swoosh logo. They don’t even need to include the name for us to know what it means.
What Doesn’t Work Well
Repetition does not work very well. Remember all the times you’ve tried this and struggled? Eventually, you might remember things but it’s a lot of work and not that effective.
Acronyms can be helpful but just not 100% effective. You then have to remember the words that each letter represents.
Flashcards are just another form of repetition.
Re-reading may help to understand the material but may not encode it in your memory.
Highlighting is somewhat effective but it doesn’t use all of the memorization principles we’re about to talk about.
5 Principles of Memorization
According to Memorize Academy, there are five principles in memorization:
So the thing we’re memorizing needs to be meaningful. And we can learn how to organize our memories when we learn by associating them with other memories or symbols. When we visualize, we are using our best way of memorizing and retaining. And in order to do all of this requires attention to the thing we want to memorize.
Attention seems obvious but we often read or do things mindlessly so by learning or memorizing with intent, it makes a huge difference. Additionally, revisit what you want to file in long term memory frequently, so you don’t forget it.
Technique: Memory Palace Method
One technique for memorizing almost anything is the Memory Palace Method. This is the technique a lot of memory competitors use to remember ungodly amounts of information.
Basically you imagine a journey, room or building that you already know very well. You place the things you want to remember around the room/building or path and see the item or word in their own locations. When you want to retrieve the information, you simply walk through in your mind and see those objects. It takes practice but it’s extremely effective.
Technique: Substitution Method
This is associating a word with a picture. It can be an object that just sounds similar to the word you want to remember. But the important part is visualizing it. If you have a lot to memorize, you could create a story in your mind using all the objects. This is a great way to encode information and be able to retrieve it later. This also helps give meaning to new and unfamiliar words and concepts.
We learned about short and long term memory and how we learn, encode, and retrieve information. We also went over the methods that most people have used most of their lives but don’t really work that well. And of course, the 5 principles of memorization: meaning, organization, association, visualization, and attention. Using the visual techniques above is the ‘pro’ way to memorize any amount of information. Give it a try!
I hope this article was helpful to you. Keep learning! If you have any questions, comments or experience with these techniques, please share in the Comments section below.
Thank you for reading!