Knowing Your Mind

While you are reading your primary memory (short-term memory) holds the information in your mind long enough for you to make sense of it.

However, the primary memory has a very limited capacity, and as you continue to read, you displace the initial information with subsequent new information.

In our Study Skills lesson, we identify preferred learning styles and see how there are many different ways of learning.

We outline the VAK learning styles concept which suggests there are 3 learning preferences:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Kinaesthetic

The principle of a preferred style for learning can be extended to memory, which is to say there are many different ways of remembering and we all remember differently, according to the situation we are in. For simple things it is likely we will use one of the 3 VAK styles according to our usual preference.
If you have an auditory preference you will find that your strength in remembering comes from recalling sounds. So, play to this strength and when you need to commit something to memory do so by reciting it or listening to it from a recording. Similarly, you may find it helpful to commit information to memory by playing music at the time of learning.

For more complex information, we remember by using a combination of the styles.

The key learning from this section is that we increase our memory potential by:

  • Recalling information by using the styles that work best for us
  • Using more than one style for recalling complicated information
  • Committing information to memory in a way that plays to our natural preference for a particular style

Activity 1
Write down just how you remember the following. When you do this, make a note of the thought process you go through – what comes to mind first?

  • What was on TV last night?
  • What is your mobile phone number?
  • When is your birthday?
  • When is your best friend’s birthday?
  • What was on the radio when you last listened to it?
  • How do you spell butterfly?
  • What does chocolate taste like?
  • What colour is a £20 note?
  • What is your address?

Do you find that you have used the same or a different technique to answer each of the above? Do you have any examples of using more than one way to remember each of the items listed?

This activity shows how we use our memories to recall information. Perhaps for remembering last night’s TV you saw a picture in your mind of the programme, or of the TV itself? Or perhaps you could hear dialogue from the TV programme? For remembering the taste of chocolate, you may have visualised the wrapper or the chocolate, or you may have been able to taste or smell it or perhaps, associated it with a person or a place.

Activity 2
Identify something that you find difficult to remember.

Think of how you could remember this using:

  • A visual technique
  • An auditory technique
  • A kinaesthetic technique

Put it into action and make a note of which technique works best for you.
Activity 3
The idea of this activity is to find a technique that will help you remember the names of people who you have just met, do not know well etc.

Pick out the names of some people (perhaps 4 or so) with whom you are unfamiliar – perhaps in a professional or personal environment.

For each person’s name, identify words or ideas that you can associate with either them or their name.

For instance, if one person’s name is Jade Little, you may think of a small piece of jade – the gemstone. Or you may think of another person by one of those names, the colour green, and so on.

This is a simple but quite good fun technique to use. You can extend its application to other areas beyond names and also develop it to incorporate other memory triggers such as visualisation and association.