As a student, you’re probably required to memorize some information. And sometimes, a HELL lot of information.
I’m not a huge fan of memorization and it’s something I avoid whenever I can because understanding the material is more important. However, sometimes there are certain facts that you simply need to memorize. It’s inevitable. Sometimes those “need-to-memorize” stuff adds up and you find yourself having difficulty making information stick in your head.
What if there were simple ways to improve your memory? Ways so simple it’s like hacking your mind by inserting extra memory cells to help you remember stuff better?
In this article, I’ll share 5 simple tricks to boost your memory power.
Note: These 5 memorization-boosting tricks might seem deceivingly simple but are in fact formulated based on years of psychological research.
So here we go…
1) Look at natural scenery
Psychologists are just getting around to measuring the effect that nature has on us humans. but a recent study done by Berman et al. from the University of Michigan shows that looking at natural scenery helps to refresh your mind.
There’s something magical about looking at nature.
It’s something we’ve always known subconsciously because when we look at nature, we feel an inner peace. But what most don’t know is that looking at nature helps us improve our memory. In one study, people who walked around an arboretum did 20% better on a memory test than those who went for a walk around streets bustling with activities.
In fact, you don’t even have to leave your house. Although the effects aren’t as powerful, you can just look at photos of natural scenery to boost your memory power. So when your brain needs a break, take the opportunity to go outside and look at nature. If you don’t live in an area where there is natural scenery, you can glance at a few pictures of nature.
iStockPhoto is a good place to do that.
Exercising is not only good for your body, but also for your brain. If you’ve ever taken a break by going for an exercise and come back feeling refreshed and alert, then you’ve proven my point.
Our brain is like a plant. Just as a plant requires nutrients and water to survive and grow, so our brain needs a constant intake of oxygen and nutrients from the bloodstream to remain energized. If faced with a lack of oxygen or nutrients, the brain will compromise its ability in tasks such as memorizing information.
Studies have shown that people who are more active physically have greater cognitive performance and are able to memorize information more effectively.
So in order to constantly feed your brain with nutrients, stop surfing Facebook all day, get out from your chair, and get your blood pumping. Walk your dog, go for a run, hit the gym, take a dance class, or play some sports. These are activities that provide a good mental workout.
3) Say words out loud
This is definitely one of the easiest methods for improving your memory.
If you want to enhance your memory by about 10%, you just have to say the information out loud to yourself. That’s it.
How is this possible you ask?
Well, according to a research done by Macleod et al., saying information out loud, or at least mouthing it, improves memory by at least 10% because it increases distinctiveness.
This finding by Macleod et al. demonstrates the idea that we tend to remember things that stands out. Our brains are wired to remember distinctions, something that is different.
We remember information better when we say the information out loud because doing so makes the information more distinctive as compared to the rest of the information which we read passively. Reading a whole chunk of text out loud would nullify the effect because then there would be no distinctiveness.
So the way to apply this method is to only vocalize important or key points that you need to remember and not blocks of text.
One gentle reminder though: if you’re caught vocalizing random words in public, it’s you that will stand out
4) Relate information to yourself
This memorization technique is called the self-reference effect. The self-reference effect works on the premise that there is a tendency for people to better remember information that relates to themselves compared to information that has less personal relevance.
We as humans are naturally selfish, even in our thinking. We organize information in a hierarchy such that more personally relevant information are at the top and thus more salient, while less relevant ones are at the bottom. It’s always easier to remember something that is related to us.
For example, I’ll always remember my friend’s birthday, which falls on the 30th of August, because he has the same birth date as me. Or let’s say you’re studying a biology module, and
Have you ever found yourself remembering stuff because it had something to do with you? That’s the self-reference effect in action.
The self-reference effect was first proposed by Rogers, Kuiper and Kirker (1977) in a study based on the concept of self-reference encoding. Research shows that people who try to relate information to themselves recall information better than people who did not make an effort to relate information to themselves.
This is because when we try to relate information to ourselves, it is a more elaborative encoding process and our brain is able to recall better.
5) Take more breaks
Research has shown that when it comes to remembering things, first and last impressions matter. In almost every situation, we are more likely to remember things that happen or that are introduced:
1) At the beginning – Primacy effect
2) At the end – Recency effect
To understand this concept, try this simple exercise. Below is a list of words. Read this list of words in order within 30 seconds, and then write as many words as you can remember on to a piece of paper.
What are the words you recalled? Did you recall words that were from the beginning and the end of the list? Most likely you won’t remember many words from the middle of the list.
Almost everyone recalls the first few words and the last few words on the list.
How can we apply this effect to memorizing information?
Since we tend to remember the first few items and last few items on the list, taking more breaks when you’re memorizing information helps to create more “first” and “last” items.
I’m not saying we should take breaks every 5 minutes. A short period is not long enough for your brain to assimilate the new information. The optimal duration to memorize information I’ve found, and empirically tested, is between 20 to 60 minutes.
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