Don’t you hate it when you just can’t quite remember the one thing you know is really important? You practice a presentation over and over again and you keep tripping on the key point. What if I told you that there’s a more effective way to memories than arduous repetition?
Backing up your brain’s hard-drive
Recent research from Johns Hopkins University has discovered a method of memorizing and mastering a new skill that is stated to be twice as fast as basic, constant repetition. To comprehend this we need to understand the process by which a memory is achieved.
Neuroscientist J.E. LeDoux explains that memory consolidation is the process by which our short-term memories are transferred into long-term memories. When we experience a moment in time, the information is “glued” to a section of the brain responsible for storing short-term memory, called the hippocampus.
When we need to recall this memory it is not simply put back in the same place. Instead, it is synthesized with the information added from the new experience. In other words, every time we access memory and adjust it slightly with new information it is reconsolidated and strengthened.
Therefore, if we translate this research into practice for that presentation, every time you run through your slides adjust something slightly. Try adjusting your speed, go as fast as you can, make mistakes, and learn from them or slow it right down and get comfortable with those long awkward pauses for effect.
Give yourself a few days, it can’t all be done in one go. Research states that six hours between accessing memories is long enough for the memory to be adequately reconsolidated. So be prepared, practice every morning and every night but change it up so you’re prepared for anything to crush that next presentation!
Learning from the Yoda of memory
8-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien’s book; ‘You can have an amazing memory’ reveals a myriad of ingenious little tips and tricks that you can practice at home to become the Dominic’s next biggest competitor. Try this; in a moment I will give you 12 random words to remember, give yourself 1 minute to memorize them as best you can. Then hide the words and write them all down in order from memory. Here are the words;
Keypad, Cup, Dog, Shell, Chair, Sun, Man, Wind, Candle, Watermelon, Ears, Rain.
Now give yourself one point for every word placed in the correct order and minus one point for every forgotten word or word placed in the incorrect order. This time I will give you a new set of words to remember but I want you to try and turn the string of words into a story, pausing at each word to incorporate as many senses as possible imagine its shape, color, texture, smell, etc.
Space, Singlet, Tile, Tree, Phone, Coffee, Brain, Mat, Puzzle, Watch, Hair, Rubber.
Why does this work?
Originally, scientists thought that when learning one side of the brain was working while the other rested. But more recent research suggests that although the left side of the brain is logically dominant and the right side is more creative, both sides work together to achieve the best possible learning outcomes. By attaching creative meaning (right side of the brain) to the visual spelling of the words (left side of the brain), both sides of your brain worked together to appropriately store the words in the correct order.