There are special people in the world known as ‘memory champions’. These special people are able to look at a string of numbers, a deck of cards, or bunch of random faces for a few seconds, then recall them with ease. Your memory works like a computer; recalling information requires rehearsing the information. The difference between memory champions and those who are not memory champions is that memory champions use certain tricks to be able to rehearse a large chunk of information in a very short amount of time. Just know that if you are not a memory savant, there is a limit to how much your brain can remember in a given amount of time. Cognitive psychologist George A. Miller of Princeton University argued that, “our working memory, our ability to hold information in our minds for a few seconds, is limited to 9 items”. But that doesn’t mean remembering more things is impossible. Here I’ll share with you a few tricks that memory champions use to improve upon their technique. I encourage you to remember them when creating e-learning, but also implement them into your own life so that you can remember pertinent information for a longer period of time.
Chunking is a technique that involves grouping similar items under a larger umbrella category. Humans naturally seek to create and find patterns and connect disparate things together, which is one reason why this technique is very simple to use in your daily life. For example, to implement this into your elearning, first determine the logical progression of your content so that your course builds on the information being presented rather than skipping around. From there, narrow the amount of information by piecing together related information within one larger topic so that students do not become overwhelmed. To better understand this technique, imagine your grocery list. Chunk together related items and give each group of items a specific name like ‘vegetables’, ‘meats’, or ‘cheese’. When you are in the grocery store trying to remember this list, recall the larger category. This will trigger your memory to recall the items that fit within that category. Thinking about the category ‘vegetables’ will trigger your brain to remember that the vegetables you need are broccoli, carrots, and asparagus.
Serial Position Effect
When creating an e-learning training, it is important to remember that your learners are more likely to remember what was presented at the beginning and end of the training, and less so the topics that were discussed in the middle. This is known as serial position effect. The order that the information is presented in factors into what information a learner is more or less likely to recall with ease. One way to help your learners remember all of the information presented equally is to create a study guide with a larger portion dedicated to information discussed in the middle of the training. If you are studying for a cumulative final and you are unsure of where to begin, spend more time going over the chapters discussed in the middle of the semester rather than those at the beginning or end. Research conducted by Dr. Paul Murdock (1962) found that when participants were asked to remember a list of 10 to 40 items, the position of the items on the list was directly related to how easily the participants were able to recall them during a quiz at the end of the study. Even though it may seem to make more sense to spend an equal amount of time on every item in the list or chapter discussed throughout the semester, begin by dedicating more time on the middle chapters or the middle items on a given list. Implementing this method will assist your learners in remembering all parts equally.
Connect the Information Back to You
Connecting information back to personal events creates connections with the information that you have just learned (now in your short-term memory) to what you have learned in the past (your long-term memories). By making these connections, your brain consolidates memories more easily than if you had not used this technique. If you are the instructor of an e-learning course or training, one way to help students connect the topics to their own lives is to engage learners in a larger discussion. Most people want to talk about themselves, so start with a simple question to open up the discussion and allow conversation to flow naturally until the topic has been discussed in depth. This technique is also useful if you seem to forget small tasks easily. For example, many of us have felt that panic that our car has been towed or stolen only to find that we simply parked in a different spot. To help ease stressful moments like these, make a personal connection with an aspect to your parking location. For example, if your middle name happens to be Rose and there is a rose bush next to where you parked, remember ‘rose bush’. When returning to your car, recall ‘rose’ or ‘rose bush’, and you will be more likely to remember that you parked next to a giant rose bush.
Whether you are trying to become the next memory champion, help your e-learners to remember the information after the testing, or to avoid the chaos of misplacing your keys, use these helpful memory tricks to succeed in various aspects of memory consolidation.
What tricks do you use to remember important information? Let us know in the comments below!
Brogaard, B. (2012). The Magical Number Seven, Plus 67,883: The extreme limits of memory retrieval and how to get there. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201211/the-magical-number-seven-plus-67883
Scientific America. (2007). How does short-term memory work in relation to long-term memory? Are short-term daily memories somehow transferred to long-term storage while we sleep? Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/experts-short-term-memory-to-long-term/
Shermer, M. (2008). Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/patternicity-finding-meaningful-patterns/