Learn Like Einstein: Elephant Memory Techniques

Improving your memory is one of the biggest steps you can take towards being an expert, learning better, and increasing your knowledge.

The term “improving your memory” by itself is actually hazy because we have different types of memory. What most people intend to do is improve their long-term memory, but it’s not always what happens 먹튀검증.

It’s helpful to begin any discussion about memory talking about its components so you can understand how to better achieve your memory goals.

There are three types of memory and they have very different purposes.

1. Sensory memory
2. Short term/working memory
3. Long-term memory

Sensory memory holds both conscious and subconscious information you gain from your five senses. It helps you make sense of your environment and shapes your perception. However, you only remember or perceive these things for as long as they are necessary or useful, and that can be only a few seconds. These are mostly things we don’t really notice consciously.

Short term, or working memory, is information you consciously remember for short periods of time without rehearsing or actively trying to commit them to memory. For most people, studies have shown this is roughly seven items for up to thirty seconds. In other words, short term memory can hold seven items, but you will likely forget most of them after thirty seconds.

Imagine that you are trying to remember someone’s phone number so you can dial it before it leaves your brain. You are relying on your short term memory to hold those numbers, and you can’t hold them forever, so you need to rush to dial the number as quickly as possible. The same feeling occurs when we try to remember license plate numbers and shopping lists.

We instinctively repeat and rehearse the items to ourselves to try to push them into the final phase of memory: long-term memory.

Long-term memory is typically the end goal for whatever we try to memorize or learn. Long-term memory is essentially unlimited and forever, subject to how important the information is and how much it was rehearsed.

There are three steps that push information into memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval.

Encoding is when information is consumed and the brain links the new information to something familiar to make it meaningful and make it stay. Storage is when memories are retained, typically by practice or rehearsal of some sort. Retrieval is when you pluck the memory out of your memory banks and access it to use it in some way.

Short-term memory and long-term memory are stored in different parts of the brain. Short-term memory resides in the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex, but information stored in long-term memory is first held in the hippocampus, then transferred to the cerebral cortex for permanent storage.

These are important because most of the reasons we forget are related to one of these steps of memory creation. For example, forgetting something in your short-term memory is a result of insufficient encoding, while forgetting something from your long-term memory is a result of faulty retrieval. This has been dubbed the forgetting curve by scientist Hermann Ebbinghaus.

Ebbinghaus posited that memories will fade or not be retained if there is insufficient rehearsal and practice. He estimated that people typically remember only 50% of newly learned information three weeks after exposure, and they remember only 10% eight weeks after exposure. Additional studies have confirmed that it’s possible to retain up to 80% of newly learned information if you review and rehearse it within twenty-four hours after exposure.

Our brains are always trying to make sense of the world through limited means. Our memory is selective and wants to filter out the useless chatter we experience on a daily basis. If you rehearse something and repeatedly expose yourself to it soon thereafter, it’s a signal to your brain that this information shouldn’t be filtered, and actually deserves some mental bandwidth.

In other words, if you learn something on Wednesday, the first time you should review it is later that night, and then every day after. Use it or lose it.

This is the basis for the technique generally accepted as most powerful and effective in increasing your memory: spaced repetition.

Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition is just what it sounds like.

In order to commit more to memory and retain information better, space out your rehearsal and exposure to it over as long a period as possible. In other words, you will remember something far better if you study it for one hour a day, versus twenty hours in one weekend. This goes for just about everything you could possibly learn. Additional research has shown that seeing something twenty times in one day is far less effective than seeing something ten times over the course of seven days.

Spaced repetition makes more sense if you imagine your brain as a muscle. Muscles can’t be exercised all the time, and then put back to work with little to no recovery. Your brain needs time to make connections between concepts, create muscle memory, and generally become familiar with something. Sleep has been shown to be where neural connections are made, and it’s not just mental. Synaptic connections are made in your brain and dendrites are stimulated.

Here’s a look at what a schedule focused on spaced repetition might look like.

Monday at 10:00 AM ? learn initial facts about Spanish history. You accumulate five pages of notes.

Monday at 8:00 PM ? review notes about Spanish history, but don’t just review passively. Make sure to try to recall the information from your own memory. Recalling is a much better way to processing information than simply re-reading and reviewing. This might only take twenty minutes.

Tuesday at 10:00AM ? try to recall the information without looking at your notes much. After you first try to actively recall as much as possible, go back through your notes to see what you missed and make note of what you need to pay closer attention to. This will probably take only fifteen minutes.

Tuesday at 8:00PM ? review notes. This will take ten minutes.

Wednesday at 4:00PM ? try to independently recall the information again, and only look at your notes once you are done to see what else you have missed. This will take only ten minutes. Make sure not to skip any steps.

Thursday at 6:00PM ? review notes. This will take ten minutes.

Friday at 10:00AM ? active recall session.

This will take ten minutes.

Looking at this schedule, note that you are only studying an additional 75 minutes throughout the week, but you’ve managed to go through the entire lesson a whopping six additional times. Not only that, you’ve likely committed most of it to memory because you are using active recall instead of passively reviewing your notes.

You’re ready for a test the next Monday. Actually, you’re ready for a test by Friday afternoon. Spaced repetition gives your brain time to process concepts and make it’s own connections and leaps because of the repetition.

Think about what happens when you have repeated exposure to a concept. The first couple of exposures you may not see anything new. As you get more familiar with it and stop going through the motions, you begin to examine it on a deeper level and think about the context surrounding it. You begin to relate it to other concepts or information, and you generally make sense of it below surface level.

All of this, of course, is designed to push information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. That’s why cramming, or studying at the last minute, isn’t an effective means of learning. Very little tends to make it into long-term memory because of the lack of repetition and deeper analysis.

Just as an illustration of the applicability of spaced repetition, Paul Pimsleur discovered that for his audio-based language learning program, there were very specific pauses that led to increased learning. In other words, there were very specific intervals of time between the repetitions that showed better language learning and retention.

The intervals he discovered were: 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years. This shows the importance of repetition, especially soon after initial exposure.

Memories are much better created when they are processed and analyzed on a deeper level, because they form a vivid mental image versus a set of facts and descriptions that the brain filters as boring and useless.

Flashcards

Flashcards are one of the best ways to memorize information. They force recall, and they aren’t passive. You must actively recall and state what is on the other side of the flashcard, and it’s this act of accessing a potential memory that cements its status.

In order to make best use of your flashcards, commit to making two sets. The first set will contain mere definitions and single concepts. One word prompts for one word or sentence answers.

The second set of flashcards will contain as much information about a single concept as possible, so you will be forced to recall all of that with the prompt of a single word. This is also known as chunking information, where it’s advantageous to your short-term memory (which can only hold on average seven items) to remember information as a large chunk, rather than as smaller, individual components. This means when you put more information on each flashcard, that set of information becomes one item versus five items.

When you go through your flashcards, put the cards you got wrong back into the middle or front of your stack so you will see them sooner and more frequently. This helps you work through your mistakes and commit them to memory more quickly.

Overall, you are familiar with flashcards and have likely used them, so there isn’t much for me to add here that would teach you something new. Just make sure to understand flashcards aren’t a passive activity. You need to actively recall the other side of the flashcard, recite it out loud, then strive to recall more from that single prompt.

Mnemonics

A mnemonic device is most commonly seen as an acronym, where the first letter might represent a word for each. You can make mnemonics for just about anything.

For example, the colors of the rainbow are far more easily remembered as ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

Not much more clarification is necessary here, other than to note that while acronyms are the most common, you can create phrases as mnemonics as well. The point is to give meaning to something that you can more easily remember, and this can be different for everyone. Here are a couple more examples:

The classification system for organisms is far more easily remembered as Devoted(or some other D-word) King Philip Came Over For Good Soup (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species).

The order of the planets of our solar system: My Very Easy Method: Just Say Understand Now (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune).

The list goes on. The more vivid and outlandish the acronym or imagery, the better and easier to remember.

Stories

Creating stories, or using metaphors and analogies function on the same principle as mnemonics. They substitute a series of information that is difficult to remember with something simpler to remember that has personal meaning to you.

Here’s a simple example of something that I’ve remembered for the past twelve years because of how it illustrated information so perfectly in my mind. Humans have two types of receptors in their eyes, rods and cones. One is for perceiving black and white, and the other is for perceiving color. Which is which?

Well, traffic cones are bright orange, while rods resemble the silver poles that hold up stop signs. Therefore, cones perceive color, and rods perceive black and white.

What you’re doing is drawing out the main elements of something and putting it into something you understand and remember. Put it into a context that is so obvious to you that all you have to do is be prompted.

Find something with one or two striking characteristics, and think about how it can relate to Spanish history and say, “It’s similar to the Inquisition because…” If a story has a good guy and a bad guy, you can characterize them as the historical figures. You can think about them in terms of the difference between motorcycles and cars. A particular aspect might seem like the process of baking a cake. The end result may remind someone of how your mother treated you when you refused to come home for Christmas that one year.

A picture of a tree might remind you of the geography of a country because of the curves of the branches.

You can use players on your favorite baseball team to memorize the members of a country’s government. Who resembles whom and why? You can use a song to remind you of a history lesson because the song is about rebuilding.

It’s also this active analysis and application of a story, imagery, or metaphor to your information that further helps memory become solidified. You’re searching to tie new information into existing information in an engaging manner. You might even remember the thought process more than the story or metaphor itself.

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