Archive for December, 2009

Healthy Memory Wishes You a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2009

And a prosperous one, especially with respect to personal and cognitive growth. Healthymemory is devoted to cognitive growth and the enhancement of human cognition. Why not make it a resolution to use Healthymemory’s blog to pursue these goals?

The blog Healthymemory pursues three themes. One theme pursues an understanding of how memory works. Such an understanding is basic to a healthy memory. One also becomes aware of the many shortcomings and biases of human cognition. Knowing these shortcomings and biases allows you to make a more objective assessment of your own cognitive performance. It also alerts you to pitfalls and biases, so you can avoid them.

The second theme addresses mnemonic techniques, specific techniques for enhancing memory. Obviously these techniques alone should improve memory. But these techniques also exercise your creativity, imaging ability, and recoding ability, among others. So the techniques are also good memory exercises. The blog post “A Memory Course” provides a syllabus of the postings in this blog that present memory techniques that are common to most memory courses.

The third theme addresses a little known concept, transactive memory. Transactive memory refers to memories that you can access but are not store in your own biological memory. These memories can be found in technological devices, books, journals, computers, in cyberspace, or in your fellow human beings. How to use transactive memory to enhance your own memory and to achieve cognitive growth are all discussed under this theme.

Happy New Year! And please consider becoming a regular visitor to Healthymemory.

This blog will go on a brief hiatus, but it shall return. In the meantime, there is plenty to chew on already.

Note; The blog post, “A Memory Course” , can be found, just as any other post, by entering the title in the search this site box.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Transactive Memory1 and Educational Testing

December 30, 2009

The most common criterion for learning in our educational system is whether you can remember certain information. Sometimes recognition memory is tested, as in true false or multiple choice tests. At other times recall memory is tested, as in fill in the blank or essay tests. These tests are carried up the educational hierarchy all the way to comprehensive written tests for Ph.D. qualifying exams. Open book exams are the exception and not the rule. And the use of crib notes can get a student into serious trouble.

Educators have tended to regard the proliferation of transactive memory (the internet, for example) as a threat to education. They fret about students plagiarizing text from the internet and their inability to recognize or identify this plagiarism. This blog posting will argue that the abundance and availability of transactive memory should be regarded as an opportunity rather than a threat.

When I taught introductory or lower level courses in college, I placed heavy reliance on multiple choice tests. The main considerations here were time and resources. Given an abundance of students and no teaching assistants, practical considerations dictate multiple choice tests. When I needed to construct make up tests for students who had missed scheduled tests for legitimate reasons, I made up essay tests. It is not practical to construct multiple choice tests for one or several students. Usually I was appalled when I graded these tests. Part of the problem often was poor composition skills, but the conclusion I drew was that the students had but the flimsiest grasp of the material. So students seemed to be learning much less than what I had inferred from their multiple choice test performance.

Now consider this new type of test in today’s world of ubiquitous transactive memory. Students would arrive at the exam with their laptops and would be given full internet interactivity. There would be no restriction on any materials they had prepared for the exam. They would be given a problem, perhaps more than one. And it is possible that these questions would be taken from a set of potential exam questions that the students had been given in advance. They would be required to answer the problem or problems to the best of their ability using all the resources at hand. The premise underlying this type of test is that the critical test of knowledge is how well you can use it rather than whether you can recall it by rote. Using the knowledge of others is not a problem as long as credit is given. Failure to provide sources would be heavily penalized.

What do you think of this new type of test for the 21st Century?

1Transactive memory, as presented in previous blog postings, is memory external to our personal selves. So this is memory resident in our fellow humans and in the vast expanses of technology, for example libraries and the internet.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Anchoring and Adjustment1

December 29, 2009

The anchoring and adjustment heuristic was discovered by Tversky and Kahneman. This heuristic is used to make a numerical estimate of an unknown quantity. We begin by retrieving the most relevant number that we know. This number serves as the anchor. Then that anchor is adjusted upwards or downwards based on what other factors we know or what other information that becomes accessible. Tversky and Kahneman demonstrated this heuristic in the following experiment. One group of subjects watched a spinning wheel (that was rigged to stop at 65) and then asked them whether the number of African nations that were members of the United Nations was higher or lower than this number (65). Then they were asked to estimate the number of African nations that were members of the United Nations. A second group of subjects was administered the same procedure except that the spinning wheel was rigged to stop at 10. The mean estimate of the first group (where the spinning wheel stopped at 65) was 45. The mean estimate of the second group (where the spinning wheel stopped at 10) was 25. Clearly the spinning wheel provided an anchor that was used to make the estimate.

The results of this experiment might not impress you as you might think that most students would be completely clueless as to the number of African nations that belonged to the United Nations. Consequently, they were desperate and where grasping (anchoring) at straws. Perhaps a more practical demonstration of the relevance of the anchoring and adjustment heuristic can be found in the bargaining process when purchasing an automobile. The salesperson uses the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) as the anchor, and bargain down from there. The customer is advised to find the invoice price, the price that the dealer actually paid for the car, and use that as the anchor and bargain up from there.

Anchoring effects can produce reasoning results that are ridiculous. Paul Slovic and his colleagues report a study in which people rated a gamble with a 7/36 chance to win $9.00 and a 29/37 chance to lose $0.05 more favorable than a gamble with a 7/36 chance to win $9.00 and a 29/37 chance to lose nothing! For both bets the amount won and the odds are identical, but in the preferred choice there is a possible loss, albeit a small loss. This bet remained preferred to the no loss bet when the odds and the payout remained the same, but the possible loss was increased to $.25. The only apparent explanation here is the $.05 and $.25 loss conditions provided a reference point that made the $9.00 winnings appear larger than when the bet did not contain a reference point (no loss).

1Most of this content is based upon Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought. New Haven: The Yale University Press.

Transactive Memory and Travel

December 27, 2009

Transactive memory refers to those memories stored outside one’s own brain. So they can be stored in such technological devices as paper, computer, or the internet, or they can be stored in other individuals. Travel makes extensive demands on memory, so this post provides some ideas on how transactive memory can be effectively employed during travel.

For example, consider the trip to New York City, that my wife and I will be taking. There are a number of tasks that must be accomplished. The first is planning. We need to decide where to stay. Once that is decided, then we need to make the reservations. This is a responsibility that I take. I first discuss this with my wife and later, before actually making the reservations, I confirm them with my wife.

Another responsibility is transportation, how to get there. As my wife is the more frequent traveler to New York, she takes this upon herself. Of course, she discusses this with me, but she is the one who decides upon the mode of transportation and makes the reservations. She is responsible not only for transportation to and from New York City, but also for transportation within the city once we arrive. She does this because she is the more knowledgeable party.

Then we need to decide what to do while in New York. My wife, again being more knowledgeable of the city takes responsibility for the daytime activities. She is very knowledgeable about museums and the like. I take responsibility for the evening activities. We like to go to plays and I try to keep up to date on what is playing of potential interest. Of course, I consult with my wife before booking the shows we are going to attend.

Eating, we need to plan where to eat. Of course, all of this planning does not need to be done in advance. Some activities can be played by ear. But here, I trust the ear of my wife rather than my own.

Of course, technological transactive memory is also involved. Online resources are used to explore the alternatives and to make reservations. There are physical tickets and information on the reservations and the travel. The respective parties can be responsible for their respective holdings of physical transactive memory. This information can be held by both parties in the event that one party misplaces certain information. It is also possible to store this information online via email or some other source from which it can also be retrieved.

Regarding healthy memory in general, travel provides healthy exercise (both physical and mental). This post has already discussed some of the activities that are involved. And travel involves social interactions and new experiences that are also beneficial to healthy memory and effective aging.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

How Do We Become Cognitive Misers?1

December 26, 2009

The 9/11 tragedy was terrible, and it certainly was vivid. The startling tragic events were presented again and again in the media. As a result some people stopped flying. Now if they simply stopped flying it would have been one matter; but they tended to drive instead. Now which is safer: flying or driving? Compared to almost any other activity in our lives, driving is the most dangerous. However, it is not vivid. We live and come to accept the carnage on the highways year in and year out. We drive and we do not see, from our personal perspective, than many accidents. Researchers estimated that 300 more people died in the remaining months of 2001 because they drove rather than flew. One group of researchers calculated that for driving to become as dangerous as flying an incident of the magnitude of the 9/11 tragedy would need to occur monthly!

Salience is another cue that can save effort, but lead us astray. Consider this question. Which is more dangerous?

A disease that killed 1286 out of 10,00 people

A disease that killed 24.14% of the people

Most thought that a disease that killed 1286 out of 10,00 people was the more dangerous. We can ask why. Well, 1286 is a large number of people, it is quite salient. One needs to do a computation, even though a rough mental calculation will indicate that 24.14% would be more than 2400 people out of 10,000. So the cost of this cognitive miserliness is the wrong answer.

Another example is the money illusion. This occurs when people are overly influenced by the nominal monetary value. It has been found that people underspend in a foreign currency when the foreign currency is a multiple of the home currency (for instance 1 US dollar = 4 Malaysian ringgits) and overspend in a foreign currency is a fraction of the home currency (say, 1 US dollar = .4 Bahraini dinar). This is something to keep foremost in your mind when you travel.

The money illusion can lead to serious public policy problems. In 2006 and 2007 there were calls for political action when gasoline prices reached $3 per gallon. However, when the price was adjusted for affordability (income) the price of gasoline was substantially below what it was from 1978 to 1981.

Key to memory health is its effective use. Miserly cognition is the enemy of rational decision making and cognitive health.

1Most of this content is based upon Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought. New Haven: The Yale University Press.

Healthy Memory Wishes You a Merry Christmas

December 24, 2009

And, of course, a healthy memory. This blog is devoted to building healthy memories. It is based on three themes. The first theme is that it it important to understand what memory is and how it works.

The second theme is on specific mnemonic techniques for improving memory. These techniques serve two purposes. The first is obvious, they provide a means for improving memory. But they also require creativity, the formation of mental images, recoding, and the searching of brain structures that provide exercise for both hemispheres of the brain.

The third theme is on transactive memory, a concept that is not generally known or understood. Transactive memory refers to memories that are stored outside of one’s own personal brain. These are memories that can be found in technological artifacts, such as paper, books, computers, and the internet. It also refers to memories held by our fellow humans. Transactive memory provides a means for memory growth and enhancement. These sources are found not only in cyberspace and in technological artifacts, but also in our fellow humans. This latter source provides for social interactions and relationships, which are important for healthy brains and memories.

This blog also contains a holiday gift, a memory course. The syllabus for this course can be found in a post titled, oddly enough, “A Memory Course.”

Happy Holidays!

A Memory Course

December 23, 2009

Buried among these blog posts is what could be construed as a traditional memory course. These posts are scattered throughout this blog. Here is the recommended order in which you should do them:

Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Concrete Pairs

Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Abstract Pairs

Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Concrete Pairs

Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Abstract Pairs

The Method of Loci

The One Bun Rhyme Mnemonic

How to Memorize Abstract Information

More on Recoding: Learning Foreign and Strange Vocabulary Words

Remembering Numbers

More on Remembering Numbers

Three Digit Numbers

Remembering Even Larger Numbers

You can easily find these by using the search this site block and entering the title of the post.

The most fundamental type of learning is paired associates, the learning of what word has been paired to which word. Concrete words are the easiest to learn, so the first post to take is the learning of concrete word pairs. Abstract words are more difficult so the next three posts increase the abstract content of the pairs. These posts are not to read only. To benefit you need to do them. After mastering techniques for paired associate learning you move on to the classical method of loci. This is followed by the simple one bun rhyme mnemonic, which should make it easy for you to remember ten item lists. The ten item list you learn in the next post, “How to Remember Abstract Information,” is the Bill of Rights. The next post is long and difficult and presents techniques for learning not only foreign vocabulary words, but unusual English words which appear to be foreign. The final four posts are on remembering numbers. Developing a facility with this number recoding technique is needed for most advance mnemonic techniques.

Remember, these posts are not simply to be read. They also provide exercises that need to be practiced to develop facility with the techniques.

I hope you also find the remaining posts under mnemonic techniques useful. The above posts present the material most common to conventional memory courses.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Abstract Pairs

December 22, 2009

(If you have not done so, it is recommended that you read, and do, the preceding post, “Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Concrete Pairs”)

Consider these word pairs:

AFTERLIFE   EGO

ALLEGORY  TRUTH

FAULT           MATHEMATICS

Note that both words of each pair are abstract and need to be made more concrete in the image.

The following are possible mental images to help you remember.

Someone being rejected at the Pearly Gates in the AFTERLIFE due to his excessive EGO.

A wise man telling an ALLEGORY about TRUTH

A student finding FAULT in their MATHEMATICS

Now try these ten pairs:

ADVANTAGE          DALLIANCE

CRITERION              JEOPARDY

ADAGE                      CAUSALITY

ESSENCE                  LEGAL

WISTFULNESS         DUTY

WITNESS                   JUSTICE

DEMOCRACY          DEBACLE

ARRAY                      SIMILE

ARBITER                   ELABORATION

CLEMENCY              FIGMENT

Now, without looking above, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

WISTFULNESS

UNBELIEVER

ESSENCE

DEMOCRACY

ADAGE

ARRAY

CRITERION

ARBITER

ADVANTAGE

CLEMENCY

Now try these ten word pairs

CONTEXT                 EXPLANATION

BELIEF                      CRISIS

CONTENTS               DYNASTY

GENDER                   INANITY

INSOLENCE             PACIFISM

SOBRIETY                SENSATION

STEERAGE               OPPORTUNITY

DUTY                         DEMON

UNIFICATION         BOAT

SITUATION              VANITY

Now, without looking, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

INSOLENCE

GENDER

CONTENTS

BELIEF

CONTEXT

SOBRIETY

STEERAGE

DUTY

UNIFICATION

SITUATION

I think you will agree that this is healthy mental exercise that makes demands on your imagination and creativity as well as your memory.  Undoubtedly you noted that the task became more difficult as the words became more abstract.  It takes more practice to become proficient with the abstract words, but this practice can be quite worthwhile, as you have likely noted that much information that you want to remember is abstract, sometimes even nonsensical. 

  I have stressed using mental images. However, it is also possible to use verbal linkages, phrases and sentences.  You might find that the latter technique works better with abstract material. 

Please repeat these blog postings as often as you think it is needed to develop proficiency.  This will serve you in good stead for the remainder of this book.

If you have done all the exercises in this blog, you have accomplished quite a mental workout.  You have exercised both hemispheres of  your brain as well as your imagination, recoding, retrieval, and decoding skills.  You should also be beginning to develop some effective new memory skills.  Remember that you are engaged on a course from which you do not finish and graduate.  You need to keep practicing these skills both to improve your specific memory skills and to exercise and improve your mind and brain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paired Associates Learning: Abstract Concrete Pairs

December 22, 2009

(If you have not done so, it is recommended that you read, and do, the preceding post, “Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Abstract Pairs”)

Consider the following word pairs:

PERJURY                  REVOLVER

ABASEMENT           INN

FOIBLE                      AMBULANCE

Here the stimulus, or cue, is abstract, and needs to be made more concrete in the image and the response is concrete.  Here are some possible mental images to help you remember these pairs.

Someone committing PERJURY because there is a REVOLVER pointing at their head

Someone taking a room in ABASEMENT of an INN

Someone committing some type of FOIBLE and ending up in an AMBULANCE.

Now try these ten word pairs:

ADVERSITY             FOAM

REMINDER               TROOPS

RATING                     PROFESSOR

REPLACEMENT       CASE

FUNCTIONARY       LEAFLET

SENTIMENT             BOOK

BANALITY               FLESH

FACILITY                 BAGPIPE

PREDICAMENT       ARROW

BELIEF                      BOSOM

Now, without looking at the above, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

ADVERSITY

RATING

FUNCTIONARY

BANALITY

PREDICAMENT

REMINDER

REPLACEMENT

SENTIMENT

FACILITY

BELIEF

Now let’s try another ten pairs

ANSWER                   PICTURE

EXACTITUDE          FIREPLACE

PROFESSION           SUNBURN

IRONY                       YACHT

UNREALITY             GRADUATION

FALLACY                 ENGINE

EXCUSE                    GIANT

FACT                          RIVER

FATE                          ROCK

EMANCIPATION     FLOOD

Now, without looking back, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

ANSWER

EMANCIPATION

EXACTITUDE

FATE

PROFESSION

FACT

IRONY

EXCUSE

UNREALITY

FALLACY

I think you will agree that this is healthy mental exercise that makes demands on your imagination and creativity as well as your memory.  Undoubtedly you noted that the task became more difficult as the words became more abstract.  It takes more practice to become proficient with the abstract words, but this practice can be quite worthwhile, as you have likely noted that much information that you want to remember is abstract, sometimes even nonsensical. 

I have stressed using mental images. However, it is also possible to use verbal linkages, phrases and sentences.  You might find that the latter technique works better with abstract material. 

Please repeat these blog postings as often as you think it is needed to develop proficiency.  This will serve you in good stead for the remainder of this book.

If you have done all the exercises in this blog, you have accomplished quite a mental workout.  You have exercised both hemispheres of  your brain as well as your imagination, recoding, retrieval, and decoding skills.  You should also be beginning to develop some effective new memory skills.  Remember that you are engaged on a course from which you do not finish and graduate.  You need to keep practicing these skills both to improve your specific memory skills and to exercise and improve your mind and brain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Abstract Pairs

December 20, 2009

(If you have not done so, it is recommended that you read, and do, the preceding post, “Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Concrete Pairs”)

In the preceding post, the words being associated were fairly concrete, so it was not difficult to form images for them.  Now consider the following word pairs:

BLACKSMITH          ATROCITY

CHIN                          HINT

HORSE                       LAW

In these pairs the stimulus, or cue, is still concrete, but the response is somewhat abstract and difficult to image.  The word needs to be recoded into a meaningful picture.  Here are some possible mental images you can form to remember these word pairs:

A mental image of a BLACKSMITH  committing some sort of ATROCITY

A  mental image of someone playing a game of charades pointing to her CHIN as a HINT

A mental image of a HORSE attending LAW school.

 Now try forming mental images for these word pairs:

CIGAR                       PERMISSION

FISHERMAN                        FOLLY

LARK                         LEGISLATION

PRIEST                       CHANCE

CAR                            MALICE

FOREHEAD              INTERIM

KETTLE                     MASTERY

ADMIRAL                 MISCONCEPTION

LOBSTER                  ANTITOXIN

MICROSCOPE          AMOUNT

Now, without looking above, try recalling the word that was paired with each of the following:

FISHERMAN

PRIEST

FOREHEAD

ADMIRAL

MICROSCOPE

CIGAR

LARK

CAR

KETTLE

LOBSTER

Now let’s try another set of ten pairs

MACARONI              TEMERITY

TRUMPET                  LENGTH

UMBRELLA              TRUTH

LIBRARY                  SAVANT

MEAT                         PROXY

TOAST                       UNBELIEVER

LEOPARD                 PROMOTION

KING                          METHOD

SOIL                           INGRATITUDE

ROBIN                       PERMISSION

Now, without looking back, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

SOIL

LEOPARD

MEAT

UMBRELLA

MACARONI

ROBIN

KING

TOAST

LIBRARY

TRUMPET

I think you will agree that this is healthy mental exercise that makes demands on your imagination and creativity as well as your memory.  Undoubtedly you noted that the task became more difficult as the words became more abstract.  It takes more practice to become proficient with the abstract words, but this practice can be quite worthwhile, as you have likely noted that much information that you want to remember is abstract, sometimes even nonsensical. 

I have stressed using mental images. However, it is also possible to use verbal linkages, phrases and sentences.  You might find that the latter technique works better with abstract material. 

 Please repeat these blog postings as often as you think it is needed to develop proficiency.  This will serve you in good stead for the remainder of this book.

If you have done all the exercises in this blog, you have accomplished quite a mental workout.  You have exercised both hemispheres of  your brain as well as your imagination, recoding, retrieval, and decoding skills.  You should also be beginning to develop some effective new memory skills.  Remember that you are engaged on a course from which you do not finish and graduate.  You need to keep practicing these skills both to improve your specific memory skills and to exercise and improve your mind and brain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paired Associates Learning: Concrete Concrete Pairs

December 19, 2009

A wide variety of mnemonic techniques have been presented to this point. This posting is presented for practicing the most elemental of associations, word-word pairs. Although this is elemental, it provides practice on a skill important for all mnemonic techniques.

Memory is based upon associations.  A simple type of learning is paired associates learning in which a stimulus word is associated with a response word.  When that stimulus word, or retrieval cue, occurs, we remember the word.  Many of our everyday recall tasks involve this type of memory. 

            Consider the following word pairs:

            ARM               CITY

            FLAG             REFRIGERATOR

            TRIPOD         GEM

            A good way of remembering these word pairs is to form interactive mental images of them.  For example,

            Imagine a giant ARM wrapped around a large CITY

            Imagine a FLAG draped across a REFRIGERATOR

            Imagine a TRIPOD with a giant GEM sitting on top of it.

Try to form vivid mental images of each of these pairs. 

Now some may regard this business of forming mental images as silly.  Certainly some of the images will seem silly, but they serve the purpose of making two words that do not normally go together, meaningful via the image.  You should also  bear two facts in mind.  First of all, the techniques work.  If at first you experience difficulties, please be patient and persevere.  Secondly, you are giving your mind and brain a good workout.  You are being required to use your imagination.  By forming visual images you are using both hemispheres of your brain.  When you recall the images and decode the target word you will be exercising your retrieval and decoding skills.

 Now, without looking, try to recall the items below.

FLAG what mental picture does this elicit and what is the word you recall being associated with it?

TRIPOD what mental picture does this elicit and what is the word you recall being associated with it?

ARM what mental picture does this elicit and what is the word you recall being associated with it?

This was probably easy for you.  If not, relax and try imagining each of the three pairs again. 

Now let’s try this again, but this time you form the mental images.  Take the time to form a good mental image for each pair:

ACCORDION                       FOOTWEAR

TWEEZERS                          APPLE

COIN                                     JUGGLER

BUNGALOW                        IRON

STUDENT                             JELLY

KEG                                        ANIMAL

INSECT                                 ALCOHOL

PLANT                                  ACROBAT

CASH                                      DOVE

MARKET                                KISS

Now, without looking at the above pairs, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

 STUDENT

TWEEZERS

CASH

ACCORDION

INSECT

MARKET

KEG

BUNGALOW

COIN

PLANT

Now let’s try another ten pairs:

ALLIGATOR             JUDGE

JAIL                            SUDS

HURRICANE           ARMY

STRING                     TRUCK

VALLEY                    CORPSE

DAFFODIL                HARP

EARTH                       ABDOMEN

HAIRPIN                   GRASS

GEESE                       INFANT

HOTEL                       AMBULANCE

HOUND                     LEMON

Now, without looking at the above pairs, try to remember the appropriate response to each stimulus or cue by remembering the mental image.

 VALLEY       

JAIL

HOTEL

GEESE

HAIRPIN

ALLIGATOR

STRING

HOUND

EARTH

DAFFODIL

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Shallow and Deep Cyberspace

December 18, 2009

With respect to cognitive growth, it is useful to make a distinction between shallow and deep cyberspace. A synonym for shallow in this context is popular. Facebook.com,Youtube.com, and similar social networking sites along with such popular portals as yahoo.com and cnn.com. This is not intended to denigrate or belittle these sites. The portals do a good job of keeping you up on current events. The social networking sites do provide a means of hooking up with old acquaintances and establishing new relationships. Youtube.com provides a means of readily sharing and finding videos of interest. There is a reason this websites are so popular. They are useful and they are fun. There is every reason to frequent them regularly. Potential problems for cognitive growth arise when they are visited predominately or exclusively.

Cognitive growth requires the visitation of deeper cyberspace where subjects are explored in greater depth. Examples include answers.com and wikipedia.org. Although these sites typically do not go to the greatest detail and depth, they do provide links to further resources that can lead you to become if not an expert, certainly more knowledgeable. Perhaps one of the best sites for leading you into deep or deeper cyberspace is fletchplatt.com. This is a site developed by an amazing 90 plus years retired automotive engineer. It promises 10,000 links in cyberspace. Although I have not attempted to verify this claim, and I very much inclined to believe it. The news and libraries page provides a wide variety of links including links to the New Yorker, the London Times and Public Broadcasting. The Accident and Medical Info Page, includes links to handicapped aids and the National Institute of Health Library. It also includes links on brain plasticity, the Two Sides of the Brain, a link to a Neurosurgeon, Brain Facts, and a very good book on Brain Plasticity by Doidge. The Arts and Sciences Page includes links to both the arts and the sciences. The Special Subjects including Successful Aging, and Brain Games for the Elderly. There is also a link to TED, which offers ideas by great thinkers and Video Lectures on Subjects you select.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

SQ3R

December 16, 2009

The mnemonic techniques posted thusfar on this blog have dealt primarily with learning arbitrary associations.  For example, the posting on learning the Bill of Rights by the number of each right.  Although the Bill of Rights is certainly meaningful, the number associated with each right is not.  Similarly the posting on foreign vocabulary.  Although these words initially will become meaningful at the outset they are arbitrary sounds.  So these techniques provide strategies for converting material that is initially not meaningful into something meaningful and memorable.

 However, when the material you are trying to learn is inherently meaningful, you want to capitalize on that meaning and store they key information so that it is easily remembered.  SQ3R is a proven technique for mastering school coursework and other meaningful information.  SQ3R stands for Survey, Query, Read, Recite, and Review.  Here is how the technique would be applied to a reading assignment you might be given or to reading material you wanted to understand and master.

Survey refers to paging through the material to gather what is being covered and how it is organized.  You will encounter books that use what are termed advanced organizers that describe the topics that are going to be covered.  So you are conducting an initial survey of the information.  Sometimes when you are doing research on a topic this initial survey might indicate to you that it did not contain the information you were seeking, or you did not like the organization of the material, that you already knew this material, or that the material was being presented at either a too advanced or a too elementary a level.  When this is the case and the reading is not required, you can stop here.

 However, if the material appears to meet your needs, or if it is required reading,  the next step is to query, ask questions that you hope will be answered in the material.  Actually, you will encounter texts that do this for you.  They will state that at the end of the chapter you should know this, this, and this.  But if this is not done for you, and it usually is not, then it is good for you to construct questions like this before you start reading.

The next step is to read the material.  This must be done by you.  And you want to read it at a speed governed by the organization you gathered during your survey and by questions you generated during your query.  Do not hesitate to reread sections that are not clear.  Do not just read straight through without considering the organization of  the material or the questions you want answered.

The next step is to recite, that is to try to recall the important points from the text from memory.  When you cannot recall something go back and look for it in the text and make an effort to store the meaning in memory.  This recitation is not a one shot thing.  It should be done repeatedly.  Many students remain being poor students because they simply reread material or mark it with a highlighter and do not practice retrieving the information from memory.  Multiple retrieval attempts are important and it is beneficial if you space these retrieval attempts further and further apart.

The final step is review.  This is a matter of reviewing the material and not only putting it in the organizational structure of the material you are reading, but relating it to the larger body of information you know.  These 3Rs are to be repeated many times until you have mastered the material to the desired level.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Are You a Cognitive Miser?

December 16, 2009

Stanovich has recently published a very interesting book, What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought.1 It builds upon the Two Process Theory of Cognition advanced by Kahneman (see the post, “Two Process Theory of Cognition.”). His autonomous mind is identical to Kahneman’s System 1 Processes, which Kahneman calls Intuition. These System 1. or autonomous processes, require little, if any cognitive effort. The run off automatically, they are autonomous.

However, Stanovich divides System 2 processes, which Kahneman terms Reasoning, into the Algorithmic Mind and the Reflective Mind. Do you remember this problem: A bat and a ball cost $1.10 total. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? Remember that the majority of college students responded that the ball cost $0.10 and the bat cost $1.00. Now this cost some cognitive effort as the algorithm needed to parse the amounts into $0.10 and $1.00. But this algorithm yielded the wrong answer, but according to Stanovich, it took the Reflective Mind to realize that is answer is incorrect. If the bat cost a dollar more than the ball and the ball cost $0.10, then the bat alone would cost $1.10. When $0.10 is added to this, the total cost is $1.20. So this is incorrect. When the reflective mind reflects upon this it discovers that the ball costs on $0.05. $1.00 more than $0.05 is $1.05. $1.05 plus $0.05 gives the desired $1.10 total.

The term “cognitive miser” is invoked as it is the tendency of most cognitive systems to expend as little effort at possible. Although we can often get away with this “cognition on the cheap”, we occasionally bear the cost of the wrong answer.

Here is another example. It comes from the above referenced book.

Jack is looking at Anne but Anne is looking at George. Jack is married but George is not. Is a married person looking at an unmarried person?

a) Yes

b) No

c) Cannot be determined

So what is your response? Do you agree with the more than 80% of the people who answered c) Cannot be determined? If so, you, along with the large majority of the respondents are cognitive misers! Answering this question correctly places heavy demands on the Reflective Mind. It requires disjunctive reasoning that is slow and systematic. Both possibilities of Anne’s marital status need to be considered. What is she is married? Then Jack is looking at a married person and Anne is looking at an unmarried person. What if Anne is unmarried? Then Jack is looking at an unmarried person and Anne is looking at an unmarried person. So the correct response is a) as there needs to be a married person looking at an unmarried person when all the possibilites are concerned.

These might seem like trivial problems, but they reveal the fundamental miserliness of our cognitive processes. In subsequent postings examples of how this fundamental miserliness leads to wrong decisions, important decisions, will be discussed. If you cannot wait for these postings, then buy the book.

1Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought. New Haven: The Yale University Press.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There is More To Healthy Memory Than That

December 12, 2009

When searching through cyberspace for healthy memory, or something along those lines, much will be found. Much of this will be in regard to food or some type of pill. Much will also be found regarding gadgets or software. Now food, diet, and a healthy lifestyle are important to maintaining a healthy memory. There are also useful gadgets and software that can aid in keeping memory healthy. But, as the title of this post implies, there is more to healthy memory than that.

This blog employs three themes to aid in achieving a healthy memory. One theme concerns theory and data regarding human memory. It is worthwhile to gain some understanding as to how human memory works. Included here is also some understanding regarding the physiology and structures of the brain that are important to memory. Moreover, the very activity of learning is healthful, so why should not some of that learning concern memory and the brain?

There is nothing new about wanting to build better memories. Indeed, as far back as the ancient Greeks memory techniques were a central part of rhetoric. Phenomenal achievements of memory have been recorded. However, with the invention of the printing press and the increasing availability of paper, memory techniques started to fall into increasing misuse. Today, with the smart phones, personal digital assistants, and the internet, one might conclude that we do not need to remember anything. Strictly speaking this is not quite true as one needs to remember how to use these devices and to look information up on the internet. Even so, it seems prudent to have some memory stored internally in our brains. Mnemonic techniques represent another theme of this blog. They do offer a means of improving memory. Beyond that, however, they require us, at a minimum, to exercise our imagination, to recode and relate information, and to use both hemispheres of our brain. These activities in and of themselves should foster healthier memories.

The third theme to this blog is transactive memory. Now transactive memory includes those types of external memory storage that led to the decline of mnemonic techniques. This might be a tad ironic, but it would be a serious mistake to ignore transactive memory and try to use mnemonic techniques to commit all information of interest to our internal memories. Transactive memory provides another avenue for a healthy memory. It does provide a backup to our internal memories. Something that is important should be written down or placed in some type of external storage. And it also provides a means of memory growth. There are so many things to discover and learn in cyberspace!

Transactive memory is not restricted to technology. It also includes other humans. Information discovery should not be restricted to cyberspace. Our fellow humans contain a wealth of information. We need to share information among ourselves. There is also a social benefit here that is important to all and is especially important to healthy aging.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Transactive Memory: Means to a Healthy Memory and Brain

December 11, 2009

In human memory a distinction is made between memories that are available and memories that are accessible. Accessible memories are those that can be recalled right away without any difficulty. Memories can still be available but be inaccessible at the moment. So these are memories that you know are stored in your memory, but you cannot find them now. Later, or given the appropriate prompt or cue, these memories can become accessible.

Transactive memory refers to memories that are stored external to your brain. Books, computers, the internet, as well as other human beings are all types of transactive memory. Information that is accessible in transactive memory is information that you can locate or retrieve quickly. You know where it is. It is literally at your fingertips. Information can also be available but not accessible in transactive memory. This is information that you know is available someplace, but you do not remember how to locate or access it. If you are on your computer, this is when you use your search function.

There is yet another type of transactive memory. This is potential transactive memory. Potential transactive memory could include all memories stored in the world.  This would include both technological (paper and electronic) storage and biological (data held in human memories) storage. It is termed potential transactive memory because of its huge potential for enhancing an individual’s transactive memory. This is information that can be brought to different levels in either transactive memory, available or accessible, or personal memory, available or accessible. As the amount of information in potential transactive memory is truly overwhelming, one must be careful what to pursue. But purse, we must, particularly if we want to age effectively.

Remember also that your fellow humans are also a source of potential transactive memory. Learn from others. They provide the benefit of social interaction, which is beneficial to all, but which becomes particularly beneficial as we age.

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Remembering Even Larger Numbers

December 10, 2009

(It is recommended that you read the posts “Remembering Numbers,” “More on Remembering Numbers,” and “Three Digit Numbers,” before proceeding with this post.

       There will be times, and you have probably encountered them already, when it is difficult to develop reasonable words using just the consonants.  Jerry Lucas, the former Ohio State University All America and Hall of Fame basketball player, is an accomplished mnemonist who has written many good books, as well as training courses, on learning and memory improvement.  One of them is Learning How to Learn1 He calls the memory consonant system used in previous blog postings the one sound method.  He has developed another technique, the one word method, not to replace the one sound method, but rather to supplement it when it is difficult developing mnemonics to the consonants available for a given number.  In the one word method, the same consonants are used, but the only the first consonant in a given word is used.  Consider the following number:

208117111889

Here is a recoding using the one word technique.

Now iS THe Time To Come To The aiD oF The Party.

Now consider this number:

1942198087

And a recoding using the one word technique.

To Be oR Not To Be That iS The Question

or

8021589

and a recoding using the one word technique

THere iS No Time Like The Present.

Of course the two techniques can be combined as the problems presented by the number dictate. 

Consider the following number

4307699

And a recoding using a combination of the one sound and one word techniques

RaMS Can’t Jump Big Pigs

So here 430 was recoded by the one sound technique and the remainder of the number by the one word technique.

Now consider

5039051

LeaSe Me Before Someone Else Does

So 503 is recoded using the one sound method and the remainder of the number by the one word method.

And here’s another

5718303

Let’s Go To The MuSeuM

Now here the first four digits are recoded using the one word method and the remainder using the one sound method.

            From now on, feel free to use both techniques.

            Let’s try some five digit numbers now

It is good to try your own recodings before looking at the possible recodings.

41946

10553

99477

32195

27335

Here are some possible recodings

41946  raT BRuSH (a rat brushing himself)

10553  TuSSLe LaMb (a lamb in a fight)

99477  BoB ReGGae (Some guy named Bob doing the reggae)

32195  MooN DouBLe (two moons)

27335  MuG MoMMa Law (momma testifying to a judge about being mugged)

Now for some six digit numbers

246802           

200201

296621

939766

844764

Here are some possible recodings:

246802            hoNoR SHaVe sun (a judge shaving the sun)

200201            Noah SeeS hoNeSTy

296621            NaP CHoo CHoo NeT  (a train taking a nap in a net)

939766            BuM BaG CHoo CHoo (a bum with a bag on a train)

844764            FiRe RuG CHaiR (a rug and chair are burning)

Now for some seven digit numbers

7487337

9720454

9720386

Here are some possible recodings

7487337          CaR RaCK MoMMa Cow

972454            BaG iN SouR LaiR

9720386          Big Nose Move SHoe

If you can handle seven digit numbers, then you can remember phone numbers less the area codes. 

Now for some eight digit numbers

19461492       

22429131       

50293450

63027120

78902134

85673022

And here are some possible recodings.

19461492        TuB RoaCH TiRe PiN

22429131        NaNNy RaiN BaT MuT

50293450        LiCe MaP MaRe LooSe

63027120        JaM SuN CaT NoSe

78902134        CalF BooZe NighT MaRe

85673022        ViLe SHaKe MooSe NuN

Often, before I resort to this recoding technique, I look for any meaning inherent in the number.  For example for 19461492, I would recode it by the year of my birth,1946   and the year Columbus sailed the ocean blue 1492.  The consonant sound systems provide a fall back technique when there is no inherent meaning. 

Now for some nine digit numbers

134498919

324457890

464856789

585450220

693279044

747254321

889122020

Here are some possible recodings

134498919      DaM RoweR PaVe BeD Bee

324457890      MiNoR RiLe CalF BooZe

464756789      RaSH RaKe LaTCH FoP

585450220      LauGH LuRe LiCe NuNS

693279044      SHiP MaN CaPS RoweR

747254321      CaR CaN LuRe MeN Die

889122020      FiFi BaT NuNS NoSe

As was mentioned previously, the first step can be to look for personal meaning in the numbers.  For 747254321 above, I could have recoded it as the year (last 2) I finished my Ph.D., the year (last 2) I finished my Masters Degree, then to count down from 5.

Now here are some ten digit numbers.

0287591313

1345980217

2738598211

3585903510

4211980221

5877352120

6410948296

7686430910

And here are some possible recodings.

0287591313    SuN MuG LaP ToM ToM

1345980217    ToMb RaiL BeeF SuN DoCK

2738598211    NeCK MoVie LaP MaN ToT

3585903510    MaLe FaiL BooZe MaiL DoZe

4211980221    RuN ToT TouGH SuN NeT

5877352120    LoVe Coo Coo MaiL MaT MooSe

6410948296    SHaRe TieS BeeR MeN BuSH

7686430910    CaSH fiSH RuM SouP TieS

Once you’ve mastered ten digit numbers, now you can handle phone number to include the area codes.

            Now for some 11 digit numbers

19834589020

33941127820

53859123998

Here are some possible recodings.

19834589020              TuB FoaM RoLL SoNS

33941127820              MuMMy BeeR RaiDeD NeCK FaNS

53859123998              LooM VeiL BuTToN MaP BeeF

Twelve digit numbers

298764529874

697234902210

821309567841

029913434571

And their possible recodings.

298764529874            NaP FiG CHaiR LioN BuFF CaR

697234902210            SHiP CaN MooR BooZe NuN ToeS

821309567841            ViNe TiMe SouP LuSH CalF RaT

029913434571            SoN Boo Boo duMb RuM RiLe CaT

Thirteen digits

1357982441123

5012897843291

765732143592

And possible recodings

1357982441123          DuMb LuCK BeeF NeaR RaT TiN Ma

5012897843291          Louse TiN FoP CalF RaM KNee BooT

7657321435921          CaSH FiG MaN TouR MaiL BiN NeT

fourteen digits

22428917312250

66223904678123

02913221471121

And possible recodings

22428917312250        NuN RaN iVy BiTTeN NaiLS

66223904678123        CHoo CHoo NooN MaPS RoaCH CalF FooT NuMb

02913221471121        SuN BooT MoNey GNoT Tie DiNNeTTe

fifteen digits

166289123422178

332178934567012

545658213131332

994433891221345

and possible recodings

166289123422178      TuSH CHiN CalF BooT NaMe ReigN  GoaT CaVe

332178934567012      MuMMy GNaT CaVe BooMeR LuSH CaSe DoNe

545658213131332      LuRe LuSH LiVe FaN DiMe ToMb TiMe MeN

994433891221345      Boo Boo RoWeR MuMMy FiBBeD NuN TiMe RaiL

Now you’re to the point where you can handle some credit card numbers.

sixteen digits

4973568902120034

6490345782341229

8292785437212102

and possible recodings

4973568902120034    RoPe CoMb LaSH FiBS NeT NoSe SuMMeR

6490345782341229    SHaRe BooZe MoweR RaKe FuN MaRe TiN kNoB

8292785437212102    FuN BooN CalF LuRe MuG NeT kNoTS Noah

Now you should be able to handle most credit card numbers.

We shall go no further here.  If you want to make it to 79 digits, as the student at the beginning of this chapter did, or memorize pi to 100,00 decimal places or more, you are now on your own.

[1] Lucas, J.(2001).  Learning How to Learn. Dallas:  Lucas Educational Systems

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Underappreciated Benefits of Spaced Learning

December 9, 2009

The spacing effect, which refers to the superior recall of information studied at different times as opposed to the same time (with the total amount of learning time equated), is well known in the memory literature. Unfortunately, this benefit is not well known to educators and students. Recent experiments studied the spacing effect in the realistic context of flashcard use.1 Learners often divide flashcards into small stacks. However, small stacks decrease the spacing between study trials. The experiments were conducted online.

In the first experiment there were forty pairs of synonyms (for example, Abrogate:Abolish). The first synonym was less likely to be known than the second synonym. Half of these pairs were presented in the same order four consecutive times (the spaced condition). Half of these pairs were divided into four sets of five pairs. Each set was presented four consecutive times before the next set was presented (the massed condition). The cue word (for example, Abrogate) was presented first followed by a blank. This word remained visible until the learner pressed the next button and the second word of the pair appeared. The learner controlled the timing of the presentations and did not need to respond overtly. At the end of the session each learner was asked what percentage of the items they thought they would remember under each condition of learning. At a later time the learners took a test in which the first word of each synonym was presented and they were asked to recall the second word. Recall was 49% for the spaced condition and 36% for the massed condition. The self-estimated rate of recall was 41% for the spaced condition and 60 % for the massed condition, the opposite of the actual result!

The second experiment was similar to the first experiment except that each of the four study sessions occurred on different days as did the test session. This time the spacing effect was even larger with 54% recall for the spaced condition and 21% for the massed condition. Again the learners expectation of the results was in the opposite direction of the actual results with the estimate of massed condition performance being 60% and the spaced condition performance being 41%.

Experiment 3 added a final review session, which would be typical of most academic sessions. Again the spaced condition outperformed the massed condition 65% to 34%. Prior to the final review session the predicted performance was again in the opposite direction of the actual performance 51% to 66%. However, after the final review session massing was rated lower than spacing 47% to 59%. Apparently, the experience of the final review session corrected the learners misperception of the effectiveness of spacing.

1Kornell, N. (2009). Optimal Learning Using Flashcards: Spacing is More Effective Than Cramming. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1297-1317.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Baby Boomers and Healthy Memory

December 8, 2009

I was born in 1946. Hence I am at the lead of the baby boomers. I, like many others at the lead of the baby boom, are concerned about aging. For those at the tale end of the baby boomers, this concern might come later, but it will come. These concerns center around health, particular cognitive health. By cognitive health I mean the ability to think and remember clearly and to be able to learn new things. Aging can take these abilities away from us. So, to the extent possible, we need to be proactive in engaging in activities that will preserve and enhance these abilities.

That is the principle objective of this blog. To achieve this objective, this blog pursues three themes. One is to achieve an understanding of human memory and how it works. After all, if you seek to maintain something, it is important to learn something about it. Moreover, human memory is prone to failures and shortcomings. As we age, it is easy to think that these failures and shortcomings are due to aging rather than be part of normal memory processes that we have ignored until now.

The second theme deals with mnemonic techniques. Now mnemonic techniques are techniques that help us remember, so the reason for this theme should be obvious. However, the practice of these techniques can also be beneficial to brain health. These techniques require planning and they involve creativity and imagination, activities that in and of themselves should benefit brain health.

The third theme is transactive memory. Few people know about transactive memory. Transactive memory refers to memories that are stores someplace other than your own brain. So these are memories that can be stored on paper, in a computer, or on the internet. They can also be stored in other humans. Your fellow humans not only supply a means of information storage, but they also provide for social interaction, which is important for effective aging.

Please read previous posts made under each of these memory themes (categories). Please add comments and ask questions. The more input I receive from my readers, the better I can target my blog posts.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sources of Growth for Transactive Memory

December 6, 2009

Wikipedia.org was discussed in the blog “Wikis.” Larry Sanger, a co-founder of the Wikipedia, has gone on to other projects. Sanger’s concern about the internet harming education was discussed in the blog “Can Transactive Memory Be Harmful?” His current focus is on citizendium.org. Its goal is of being a “citizens compendium of everything.” It wants to improve on the Wikipedia concept through the use of “gentle expert oversight.” The encyclopedia will be free, reliable and enormous. Beta version is online, citizendium.org, and is open and available to users. Sanger’s most recent graduate from its beta version is watchknow.org. It is a directory of free educational videos for children of all ages. The directory is sorted by subject. Currently more than 11,000 educational videos are offered. These videos are hosted elsewhere on the web.

Sanger’s ultimate internet endeavor is textop .org. This is a set of projects that would organize the information in books, dictionaries, essays, and news articles into a “single outline of human knowledge.” The proposal can be viewed at the website, texttop.org.

It is interesting to compare Sanger’s proposal to some similar earlier historical efforts.   In 1532 Giulo Camillo built a so-called Theater of Memory.  It was a predecessor of post-Renaissance Information Technology, and an early precursor of transactive memory.   Users tunneleld their way through a series of conceptual hierarchies moving from the physical plane of the theater to the metaphorical House of Wisdom, continuing through successive layers of abstraction, and finally arriving at the realm of divine truths.[1]

In the late 1500’s Giordano Bruno developed a memory wheel, which was a complex mnemonic device, so complex that it took 400 years before someone could develop a theory of how the memory wheel operated.  This a description that Francis Yates provided. “The list of images given in the book are marked off in thirty divisions marked with these letters, each division having five subdivisions marked with the five vowels.  These lists, each of 150 images, are therefore intended to be set out on the concentric revolving wheels.  Which is what I have done on the plan, by writing out the lists of images on concentric wheels divided into thrity segments with five subdivisions in each.  The result is the ancient Egyptian looking object, evidently highly magical, for the images on the central wheel are the images of the decans of the zodiac, images of the planets, images of  the mansions of the moon, and images of the houses of the horoscope.  The descriptions of these images are written out from Bruno’s test on the central wheel of the plan.  This heavily inscribed central wheel is the astral poweer station, as it where, which works the whole system.[2]”  Obviously serious dedication was required to master this wheel of memory. 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was called the memory theater and Shakespeare is said to have used trained-memory systems.   Francis Bacon included a memory system in his book The Advancement of Learning.  Moreover, in his house in Gorhumbury, he had taken great pains to incorporate a mnemonic system in the lattice of stained glass windows.[3]

[1] Wright, A. (2007).  op. cit.   pp.  122-123.

[2] Yates, F.A. (1999).  The art of memory. London:  Routledge, pp.212-213.

[3] Wright, A. 2007) op. cit., pp 131-132.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Remembering Historical Dates and Appointments

December 5, 2009

(This blog will be much more meaningful having read the following blogs: “Remembering Numbers,” “More on Remembering Numbers,” and “Three Digit Numbers.”)

 Some years are easy to remember, when Columbus discovered America for example.  In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue is likely the mnemonic you used to learn the year.  An image of Columbus on his ship embedded in a large TiRe BuN is another mnemonic using the consonant sound system.  Most every American knows the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, 1776.  But fewer Americans can recall the year that the Constitution was written, 1787.   TaCK FiG is a recoding for 1787.  You could imagine a tack being driven through a fig into a copy of the Constitution.  Most everyone knows the years for World Wars I and II, but what about the Mexican-American War?  It ran from 1846 to 1848.  DoVe RiCH DiVe RooF (a rich dove diving from a roof into a unit of Mexican soldiers).  What about the Spanish-American War?  The Spanish-American war took place in 1898.  DoVe BeeF (a dove having a beef with a Spanish soldier).  It took place between April and August, but we shall get to months later.   What about the Korean War?  This war raged from 1950 to the signing of a cease fire in 1953.   You could imagine a TuB of LiCe and a TuB with a LaMb on a hill in Korea.   And that War in Viet Nam?   With respect to American involvement, this war ran from 1959 (TaBLe Bow) to 1975 (ToP CLay), when the North Vietnamese entered Saigon.  You could imagine a table with a bow on it on top of a mound of clay in Viet Nam.

I taught my wife this trick when she was studying Art History in graduate school.  She found it quite helpful in remembering historical dates.  It has obvious uses for remembering numeric pin numbers and passwords, phone numbers, and for credit card numbers, to name just a few.

Now let’s consider the 12 hour clock.  Here you can use only the numbers 1 through 12 and indicate AM and PM with some sort of image.  For example, you could use the sun or a rooster to denote AM, and the moon in a dark sky to indicate PM. 

            Using numeric peg words for 1 through 12 we have

1          Dye

2          kNee

3          hoMe

4          haiR

5          Lye

6          Chow

7          Key

8          hooF

9          Bow

10        Dice

11        ToT

12        TuNe

 Now the half hour can be handled by adding MouSe (30) to each of the above hours.  You can do this to any level of precision desired by simply adding appropriate numeric pegwords.            

Suppose you want to remember the day of the week for a particular appointment.  This can be done by numbering the days of the week and using the corresponding pegword.  That is,

Sunday            1          Tie

Monday           2          Noah

Tuesday           3          Ma

Wednesday     4          Rye

Thursday         5          Law

Friday              6          SHoe

Saturday          7          iVy

 So suppose you have a dental appointment at ten o’clock Tuesday morning.  As your dentist does not have evening hours, you can dispense with either the AM/PM distinction or with the 24 hour clock.  So you would form an image of Ma playing DiCe at your dentist’s office.  Or suppose you wanted to remember your son’s baseball game being played at 2 on Saturday.  Again, you can dispense with AM/PM considerations.    You could form an image of your son playing baseball standing in iVy up to his kNee. 

Or suppose you needed to remember that you were meeting your wife after work at 6 on Thursday for dinner.  You could form an image of your meeting your wife for dinner at a Law office, having Chow.

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Split Brain Studies

December 4, 2009

 Some people who suffered epileptic seizures were able to find relief from these seizures by having a commissurotomy in which the neural pathways between the two hemispheres were severed. These “split-brain” patients had two independent hemispheres. However, the neural pathways from the eyes are so wired that each hemisphere receives inputs from both eyes. So under normal circumstances each hemisphere is aware of what is happening in the other hemisphere, so the person acts and behaves quite normally. Michael Gazzaniga has been quite creative in designing experimental situations in which stimuli are selectively input to each hemifield of the eye so that the two hemispheres receive different inputs and are oblivious of what the other hemisphere has received. For example if the command “Walk” was sent to the right hemisphere, the individual would begin walking. However, when asked to explain why he was walking, which went to the verbal left hemisphere, the individual would be perplexed and would try to think up some reason, such as I was going to get a soda. In another experiment a picture of a snow-covered house was presented to the right hemisphere while a picture of a chicken’s claw was presented to the left hemisphere. The participant was instructed to pick a line drawing of an object that related to the picture he saw. The right hand, which is controlled by the left hemisphere, chose a rooster to match the chicken claw, while the left hand, which is controlled by the right hemisphere picked a snow shovel to match the winter scene. Confronted with the problem of his two hands pointing to different drawings he consulted his left hemisphere, which had no knowledge of the winter scene, which offered the explanation that he picked the snow shovel to clean out the chicken coop. This was an after the fact rationalization offered confidently and honestly to make sense of his choice. Gazzaniga proposed that the left hemisphere contains an interpreter that is constantly drawing on general knowledge and past experience to try to make sense of our cognitive world. Gazzaniga and Elizabeth Phelps showed split-brain subjects pictures of sequences of everyday activities such as going to work. They later tested memory for these sequences. They were also asked about items that had not been presented such as a man fixing a television. There were also pictures of activities that fit the schema of a days work, sitting up in bed, brushing teeth, but which had not been presented. Although the left hemisphere often falsely recognized novel incidents that were consistent with the stereotype, the right hemisphere rarely ever did.[1]

There is a resemblance here between this type of rationalization and the stereotypical biases that were discussed earlier (See the blog, “Seven Sins of Memory). The left brain interpreter needs to rely on rationalizations, inferences, and generalizations to try to relate the past to the present. It is likely that this contributes to consistency, change, hindsight, and egocentric biases. The right hemisphere needs to serve as a check on the workings of the left hemisphere, as the right hemisphere appears to be more closely aligned with what really happens in the external world.


[1] Schacter (2001).  op cit. pp 157-158

Wikis

December 3, 2009

Wiki technology allows content to be created and edited easily. This enabling technology was incorporated into the title of a new type of website, wikipedia.org. This website is for an encyclopedia created and edited by its users. Its first editor was Larry Sanger. When you arrive at the home page you are confronted with a vast choice of languages that requires a drop down menu. The English version contains more than 3 million articles. You could spend the rest of your life perusing this encyclopedia and never finish it. Not only is it large, but it is also dynamic. New articles are continuously added and existing articles are updated and errors are corrected.

There is also a Wiktionary, a wiki generated dictionary, or should I say Wiktionaries, as it is multilingual.

There are Wikibooks, again multilingual. Browsing this books is like walking through a university bookstore.

Speaking of universities, there is also a Wikiversity, and it is, of course, multilingual. These are open learning communities.

One can read Wikinews, a free news source, or contribute your own articles.

Wikiquote is an online compendium of sourced quotations from notable people and creative works. Like the others, this is also multilingual and links back to the Wikipedia for more detailed information.

Wikisource is an online of free content publications, It currently holds 134,360 texts in its English language library.

Wikispecies is a free directory of species.

Wikimedia commons is a database of 5,521,091media files to which anyone can contribute.

All projects can be found in the Meta-Wiki.

There have been criticisms regarding quality control for these wikis. They are self policing and seem to do fairly well, although subject coverage can be somewhat uneven. To mitigate some of these shortcomings Larry Sanger has launched a new wiki site , Citizendium.org.

All these provide great sources for personal development and the expansion of transactive memory.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Three Digit Numbers

December 2, 2009

This blog has the following blog posts as prerequisites: “Remembering Numbers” and “More on Remembering Numbers.” Now let’s consider some three digit numbers.    If you do not like the suggested recoding, please generate your own. 

 201      NiCe Tie

202      iNSaNe

203      NiCe Ma

204      Nice Seer

205      NiCe Lie

206      NiCe Show

207      NiCe Cow

208      NiCe Fee

209      NiCe Boy

210      NeTS

212      NoT Now

213      ANaToMy

214      wiNTeR

215      NeTTLe

216      kNoTCH

217      iNDiGo

218      NaTiVe

219      NighT Pay

224      NuNNeRy

225      soN iN Law

226      NuN Shoe

228      NuN Fee

229      oNioN Bee

231      gNoMe Tea

234      New hummer

239      No MoP

240      No RoSe

242      No RaiN

246      No RuSH

248      HonoR Fee

250      kNee LiCe

251      kNee LighT

252      kNeeLiNg

253      NiLe Ma

254      NaiLeR

256      kNowLedGe

260      kNotCHeS

262      NoSHiNg

264      iNJuRy

267      No CHecK

268      No CHieF

269      No CHiP

270      kNecKS

276      kNecK Shoe

281      No FooT

284      No FiRe

289      No ViBe

301      MouSe Tie

302      MoiSteN

303      MuSeuM

304      MiSeR

305      MuZZLe

306      MeSSaGe

307      MuSiC

308      MiSSiVe

309      MiShaP

310      MuTTS

312      MuTToN

313      MaDaM

314      MaTTeR

315      MeTaL

316      My DaSH

317      My TaCK

318      MoaT Fee

319      My TuB

320      MiNeS

321      MiNT

323      My eNeMy

325      My LooN

330      MuMS

331      MaiMeD

334      MuMMeR

336      My MuSH

337      My MuG

339      My MaP

340      My RoSe

345      MuRaL

347      My RuG

351      My Lot

352      My LoaN

360      My Show

361      My SHoT

386      hoMe VoyaGe

401      RoSe Tie

402      RaCe Now

403      heRoiSM

404      RaCeR

405      wReStLe

406      haiR SaSH

408      RuSh iVy

409      ReCiPe

410      RoaDS

412      RoTTeN

413      ReDeem

414      wRiTeR

415      RaTTLe

416      RaDiSH

417      ReTaKe

418      RoaD Fee

419      Rat Pie

423      ReNaMe

424      RaiN weaR

425      uNReaL

430      RaMS

432      RaMeN

434      aRMoR

435      aiR MaiL

438      ReMoVe

440      RoweRS

441      RoaReD

443      rewaRM

450      RaiLS

469      waRSHiP

470      RoCKS

473      wReCK haM

478      aRChiVe

479      RuGBy           

480      RaVeS

484      RiVeR

501      LiCe Tea

502      LeSSoN

503      LoSe Me

504      LoSeR

505      LaSaLLe

506      LoSe Show

507      LoSe Cow

508      LoSe Fee

509      LoSe Bow

510      LoTS

511      Low ToTe

512      All DiNe

513      LighT Ma

514      LeTTeR

515      LiTTLe

516      LaTCH

517      aLL DuCK

518      LaTe Fee

519      aLighT Bee

520      LighTS

530      LaMbS

540      LaiRS

541      aLRighT

542      aLL RaN

551      aLL LooT

559      aLL LaP

561      LaSHeD

562      LoTIoN

563      aLL CHiMe

567      aLL SHaKe

570      LaKeS

571      LiCKeD

573      LiKe Me

574      LiQuoR

575      aLCoHoL

580      LauGHS

585      LeaF Lay

586      LeaF Shoe

601      CHaSTe

602      CHoSeN

603      ChooSe Me

604      CHaSeR

605      CHiSeL

606      ChewS Shoe

607      CHeeSe Cow

608      CHaSe Cow

609      CHooSe Bow

610      SHoTS

612      SHooT Noah

613      SHooT Me

614      CHaTTeR

615      CHaTTLe

616      Shot Shoe

617      SHoot Cow

618      SHoW DiVe

619      SHoW ToP

620      CHaiNS

623      CHaiN  Me

626      CHaNGE

630      CHiMeS

631      SHaMeD

636      GyM Shoe

641      SHaReD

646      CHaiR Shoe

647      CHiRaC

649      CHeRuB

650      JaiLS

651      JaiLeD

660      ChooChooS

661      SaSHeD

662      SHoeSHiNe

664      CHeW CHaiR

670      SHaKeS

671      SHoCKeD

678      SHooK Foe

682      CHieF Noah

684      CHieF Row

701      CaST

702      CaSiNo

703      ChaSM

704      KaiSeR

705      CaSuaL

706      Cow SaSH

707      CaSSoCK

708      KiSS oFF

709      GoSSiP

712      CoTToN

713      KiD Me

714      CaTeR

715      CaTTLe

716      Got Cha

717      heCTiC

718      CuT oFF

719      CuT uP

720      CaNS

724      CaNNeR

727      eGGNoG

731      GaMeD

732      CoMMoN

734      GaMeR

740      CaRS

754      CoLLaR

757      CoLiC

758      CaLiPH

760      CaSHeS

762      CaJuN

763      hoKey CHuM

765      eGG Shell

767      CoSSaCK

769      CaSH Bee

770      CaKeS

772      CoCooN

773      hoCKey GaMe

774      CouGaR

775      CaCKLe

778      KiCK oFF

779      KiCK Bee

780      CaVeS

781      CaVeD

784      GiVeR

785      GaVeL

786      hoG FiSH

787      Key FaKe

800      PHaSeS

801      FuSSeD

802      FuSSiN

803      FuSSy Ma

804      PHaSeR

805      FoSSiL

806      ViCe Shoe

807      Fee SoCK

808      FoeS Fee

809      ViCE Bee

810      VaTS

812      FaTTeN

813      halF TiMe

814      FaTTeR

815      ViTaL

816      FeTCH

817      FighT Cow

818      VeT hiM

819      FeD uP

828      FINe Foe

829      FiNe Bee

830      FoaMS

831      VoMiT

832      FaMiNe

843      FaRM

845      FeRaL

847      FRoCK

848      FaR oFF

850      FiLeS

856      FLaSH

857      FLaCK

858      FLuFF

859      FLoP

860      VouCHeS

862      FaSHioN

863      halF GeM

864      FiSHeR

865      FaCiaL

866      halF JewiSH

867      FiSH hook

868      FiSH Fee

869      iVy SHoP

870      FaKeS

876      heaVe  CouCH

877      heaVe CooK

878      heaVy CouGH

888      hiVe JiVe

901      PaST

902      PoiSoN

903      PoSSom

904      PoSeR

905      PuZZLe

906      PaSSaGe

907      BaSiC

908      PaSSiVe

909      Pea SouP

910      PoTS

912      BuTToN

913      BoTToM

914      BuTTeR

915      BaTTLe

916      PoTaSH

917      PaDDoCK

918      PaiD oFF

919      PuT uP

920      PiNS

925      PaNeL

928      haPPy KNaVe

931      BuMMeD

936      Pea MaSH

937      Bow MuG

939      PuMP

940      PouRS

941      PaRRot

947      BaRRaCK

949      PRoP

951      PLoT

952      PLaN

954      PiLeR

956      PLuSH

970      PaCKS

971      BuCKeT

972      PeCaN

973      PoKe hiM

978      PaCK Fee

979      PiCK Pie

980      PuFFS

985      BaFFLe

989      BeeF Pie

            Some of these are a piece of cake, FarM, BaTTLe (or PuDDLe).  As are PoTS and PiNS.  Whenever a number ends in 0 you can usually make the item plural.  Others require a little imagination,  LiCe Tea might be very refreshing.  The consonant sound need not begin the word, halF GeM, haPPy KNaVe.  Then you need to use your imagination to generate an image to represent the word or words.  This will give you quite a mental work out.  You need to recode a number into a word using sounds and then generate an image.  This involves creativity, a variety of mental faculties and both sides of your brain.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Neuroimaging Studies Tell Us

December 1, 2009

 Neuroimaging (See the blog “How Can the Brain Be Imaged”) has also shed light on some of the “sins” of memory (See the blog”The Seven Sins of Memory”). With respect to blocking, PET scans have been done while people were trying to retrieve both proper names and common names. Activation of several regions within the left temporal lobe was observed when people were recalling proper names. When people recalled common names, the same regions in the temporal lobe were activated, but additional activation was observed further back in the temporal lobe. According to Schacter the the left temporal lobe provides a fragile link between the characteristics of an individual person and the label by which she or he is known to others.[1]

Source misattribution and memory conjunction errors can occur due to incorrect binding at the time of recall. The hippocampus plays an important role in binding processes that, when disrupted, can contribute to memory conjunction errors. The hippocampus seems to provide the glue that holds together parts of a face or word in memory. Brain imaging studies have shown that the hippocampus becomes especially active when people learn unrelated word pairs that place heavy demands on the binding process.

PET scans have also proved useful in identifying pathological cases of blocking. NN was an amnesiac who showed no overt signs of brain damage. His family provided instances of emotionally salient events that had occurred in NN’s past. When healthy people perform a similar task recalling emotionally salient events from their past, the scans reveal increased activity in parts of the right cerebral hemisphere, especially towards the back part of the frontal lobe and front parts of the temporal lobe. NN showed no activation in these regions, Instead, he showed activation of much smaller part of the frontal and temporal regions in the opposite, left, hemisphere.[2]


[1] Schacter, D. (2001). The Seven Sins of Memory, Wilmington, MA: Houghton Mifflin p. 71.

[2] Schacter, D. (2001)  op cit. p. 85.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Healthy Memory: Its Maintenance and Enhancement

December 1, 2009

The name of this blog is healthy memory. Accordingly, the objective of this blog is the maintenance and enhancement of memory. There are three themes to support this objective. One theme is about human memory, how it works, and some of the brain structures underlying memory. A second theme concerns mnemonic techniques, specific techniques for improving memory. The third theme is termed transactive memory. Transactive memory concerns memory that you can use, but is external to your personal biological memory. Transactive memory can be found in fellow humans and in technology. The assumption underlying this blog is that all three of these themes are important to the maintenance and enhancment of memory and provide the means to achieving a healthy memory.

First of all, if you want a healthy memory, you should have some understanding of exactly what it is. So under this theme some theory regarding memory is presented. Data on how memory works is also presented. When you read these articles you might discover that memory problems that you either have had or are just noticing as you age are common to all people of all ages. It is also important to understand what brain structures underlie memory, how they change as we age, as well as the compensatory mechanisms that occur as we age.

Mnemonic techniques are specific techniques for improving personal memory. These techniques serve two goals. One is that they provide the means of improving memory. The other is that the use of these techniques likely provide exercise to the brain that is important for its maintenance and enhancement.

Transactive memory provides yet another means of maintaining and enhancing memory. Teamwork and sharing of memory chores among your friends and family not only provides a means of memory enhancement, but it also provides for social interactions that are important to brain health. Making use of technology be it paper, a Personal Digital Assistant, or a computer is yet another means of maintaining and improving memory. Moreover, the internet provides a vast resource for cognitive growth and enhancement.

You can find the blogs under each of these categories. Unfortunately. one of the features of blogs is that they are organized in reverse chronological order. So to start at the beginning, you need to begin at the bottom and work your way up.

There is a comments section under each individual blog. You are encouraged not only to leave comments, but also to raise questions. I would like to have discussions with you and make this blog a. two way street. The more I know about you, the better I can target the blog to address your interests.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.