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How Does Information Become a Long-Term Memory? Improve Your Memory Through Three Simple Steps

June 19, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 265

How does our brain form stable memories from information? If you can answer this question, you are well on your way to improving your memory for all kinds of information. This includes anything you take in through your five senses, that is, anything you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch.

Let's say, your friend introduces you to his new acquaintance. You have never seen her before, and - you have never seen anyone like her before. She looks stunning and her smile... Her name is Paula Winaruck. You can't take your eyes of her and your heart starts beating a bit faster.

You have to leave to get back to work, so you rush back to the office. Back at your desk you can still vividly recall her smile, the color of her hair... Everything is there.

But what was her name again? Paula what? Her family name, this simple piece of information doesn't come back. Why is that? Well, the answer is quite simple: You didn't pay attention to her name. Your focus was on her looks. What can we learn from this? To memorize something, including a person's name, you have to pay attention to it. The crux is that we can only pay attention to a very limited amount of information at a given time. So by focusing on one thing, we do it at the expense of another. To improve your memory then, you need to make a choice as to what is important for you to remember in a given situation, and then pay attention.

Sometimes the person you are being introduced to isn't all that exciting. Still, his name might be important, since he is a business prospect and might bring your company quite a bit of money - and a sizeable commission for you. So you are paying attention to his name: He is from Germany, and his name is Mr. Schweinstruck (in Germany people usually introduce themselves with their last name only). What? How can you ever get this into your memory? The approach most people use is reciting Schweinstruck, Schweinstruck, Schweins... There is a better way though: Try to make sense of the name, try to find some meaning in it. Ask yourself, what does Schweinstruck mean? Well Schwein sounds a bit like swine, and struck could be a truck. Well, to me it is a Swine's truck - A truck full of swine.

By finding meaning in the name, I have connected it to something I already have in my long-term memory. This then is step 2 in the process of forming a memory (step 1 being attention): To improve your memory for new information (not only names) you have to associate it with something you already know. A good strategy to accomplish this is by thinking about the meaning of new information you want to remember.

Is the memory for Mr. Swine's Truck going to last forever? Well, not quite. Our brain only keeps information it considers important. How do you instruct your brain to keep it then? Recall the information a few times. After you have finished your meeting, go through the key information again. Who was there? Swine's truck - ah - Mr. Schweinstruck. Practicing recall (step3 of forming a memory) strengthens the connections between our brain cells and thus our long-term memories.

Helmut Sachs teaches courses in creative and critical thinking, memory improvement, and information literacy at college level and in workshops for companies and NGOs. On his website Remember Everything You Want, he aims to provide a one-stop resource with techniques, tools, and background information to help you improve your memory, select the information that matters to you, and manage your personal knowledge. For more information on this article's topic, please check Memory Improvement: From Information to Memory.

Source: EzineArticles
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