Posts Tagged ‘Mnemonics’

Remembering Names of People

March 23, 2011

The basic problem for most people is that we do not pay attention to the name when the person is introduced.  Usually we are thinking of what we are going to say or some other aspect of the situation and we miss the name.  So the first rule to remember people’s names is to pay attention when we are introduced or first hear the name.  It is good to repeat the person’s name when you are introduced.  Most people will be flattered when you express interest in their name.  So if you ask a question about it, you will both flatter the person and strengthen your memory.  By now you know that to remember something you need to make it meaningful.  .  Some names are inherently meaningful, for example, Rose, Temple, Church, Carpenter.  Take advantage of this.  You also know that forming mental pictures or images enhance memorability.  So you could imagine the individual holding a rose, going into a temple, going into a church, or working as a carpenter.  Concentrate on the sound rather than the spelling of the name.  Consider the following names and how easy it is to form a mental image of them:  Taylor, Cook, Barber, Skinner, Glazer, Pacer, Blocker, Fisher, Shepherd,  Potter, Mayer, Forman, Judge, King, Noble, Winter, Sommer, Spring, Snow, Rains, Bagel, Crown, Bridges, Turner, Brown, Miller, Coyne, Glass, Bell, Tucker, Katz, Bolling, Frett, Powers, Freed, Hart, Stamp, Walker, Graves, Berry, Gill, Storm, Rich, Post, Marsh, Moore, Roper, Hyde, Prince, Park, Price, Holliday, Colt, Rodes, Fawcett, Holland, Bush, Bushman, Martini, Land, Baker, Brooks, Porter, Love, Mailer, Tanner, Baron, Ashe, Banks, Allwood, Tower, Crater, Fountain, Hedges, Bloom, Starr, Burr, Fairweather, Feather, Lemmon, Cobb, Roach, Cruz, Plummer, Trapper, Bateman, Gates, Bellow, Rivers, Keyes, Bishop, Goldwater, Ford,  Booth, Foote, Trout, Gallup, Carver, Potts, March, Bolt, Garland, Byer, Angel, Farmer, Brewer, Webb, Dancer, Flagg, Bowler, Spinner, Nichols, Bowes, Silver, Gold, Frank, Marshall, Lane, Boyle, Knot, Teller, Steel, Bacon, Klapper, Pullman, Archer, and Kane.  There are many more, these are just some examples.  Some other names can be made more memorable with a little elaboration.  Smith, a common name, is one that is especially embarrassing to forget.  Smith can easily be elaborated to blacksmith.  Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt are also hotel names so you can form a specific image for each hotel.  See if the sound of the name can be converted into an image that you can then combine with the image of the person or certain features on a person’s face.

            Another technique is to see if the name is shared by someone who is famous. 
For example, if the name was Hooper, you could think of the actor, Dennis Hooper.   Given all the famous and historical people there are, this provides a rich source of remember names.  Consider the following names:  Winfrey (Oprah), De Niro (Robert), Spears (Britney), Hughes (Howard),  Kidman (Nicole), Brokaw (Tom), Parton (Dolly), Picasso (Pablo), Armstrong (Louis), Beethoven (Ludwig Von), Mozart (Wolfgang), Warhol (Andy), Hoffman (Dustin), Bancroft (Ann), Brooks (Mel), Allen ( Woody), Gable (Clark), Cooper (Jackie), Marx (Groucho, or Chico, or Harpo), Streep (Meryl), Redford (Robert), Reiner (Carl or Rob), Seinfield (Jerry), Bonds (Barry), Castro (Fidel), Lee (Robert E), Aaron (Hank), Williams (Ted), Mantle (Mickey), Jeter (Derek), Rodriguez (Alex), Torre (Joe), and Sinatra (Frank).  Former Presidents can also be used, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt (Franklin or Teddy), Lincoln, Washington.  They key here is that you be able to form a clear image of the former President or any famous person you are using to help you remember the name.  You form an image of the person you are trying to remember with the famous person sharing the same name.  There is no need to match for sex or age, all you need to is to form an image so that when you see the person, it triggers the image and you are able to recall the name.  Do not overlook the obvious.  If the name is meaningful, associate the person with an image of the sound of the name.  If the person shares a famous name, form an image of the person interacting with the famous personage.

            Still, there will be many names that are new and strange and do not immediately suggest an image.  These names require a little work in recoding the sound of the name so that a meaningful image can be formed.  Consider the recodings for the following names:

Dembowski                 a donkey (Dem for Democrat) with a bow on a ski

Rudolph                      the red nosed reindeer

Wellington                  imagine beef Wellington if you can’t imagine the Duke

Gibbons                       imagine primates playing

Rossitter                      someone sitting on roses

Lewyckyj ( pronounced loo wit ski)   someone in the lou drinking whiskey wearing skis

Bordelais                     a lay of flowers placed on a border

Lembo                         someone dancing the limbo

Harrington                   someone issue a harangue from a ton of steel

Leifester                      someone lying faster and faster

Now try generating your own images based on the sounds of the following names:

Altman

Caldwell

Eckstein

Forbes

Hamilton

Ingram

Lieberman

Nugent

Pomerantz

Zimmer

Kim

Ku

Yu

Rodriguez

Lopez

If you had problems with any of the above, here are some suggestions

Altman            an old man

Caldwell          a cold well

Eckstein          ink making a stain

Forbes             four bees

Hamilton         hammering a ton

Ingram             pouring ink on a ram

Lieberman       a man laboring, a labor man (union organizer?)

Nugent              a new gent (a new gentleman to whom you have been introduced)

Pomerantz       a palm tree surrounded by aunts

Zimmer            a pot simmering

Kim                 imagine your next of Kin with M&Ms

Ku                   image a coup

Yu                   imagine a large letter “U”

Rodriguez       picture a rod reeking of gas

Lopez              picture someone who lopes

However remembering names is only part of the problem. The name usually needs to be associated with a face. Linking the mnemonic to an image of the individual will work, if you can do it.  Another technique that was advocated by the famous mnemonist Harry Lorayne was to link the mnemonic to something conspicuous or salient in the person’s face. 

Suppose you meet a lady with a broad nose named Hamilton. You could form a mental picture of someone hammering a ton on her nose.

Suppose a Mr. Forbes has a distinctive hairline. You could imaging four bees coming out of his hairline.

You encounter a Mr. Zimmer whose most distinguishing feature is a deep indentation from the center of his nose to the center of his upper lip (this is called a philtrum). You could form a mental picture of a pot simmering in this indentation (philtrum).

Let’s consider a Mr. Ingram next.  Perhaps the most distinctive features on his face are his large, bushy eyebrows.  You can imagine a ram pouring ink on his eyebrows.

Now consider Ms. Lembo.  She has an upswept hairdo.  You could imagine someone doing the limbo on the top of her hairdo.

Next consider Ms. Coldwell.  She has a tunnel-like, or inverted V-shaped hairline.  You could form a picture of some drawing water from a cold well in this tunnel.

Now consider Mr Kim.  You can picture in his mouth his next of kin eating M&Ms.

Notice Ms. Ku’s hair.  You can imagine a coup taking place in her hair.

Here is Ms. Yu. You can imagine large letter “”U’s” placed around her hair.

This is Mr. Rodriguez.  You can imagine a rod reeking of gas coming out of his nose.

This is Ms. Lopes.  You can imagine someone loping across her eyes.

The more information you can associate with the person, the better the overall memory.  So what is important about the person?  Knowing the occupation or the position someone holds is important.  Recoding and forming images to remember are not always necessary.  Of course, you can form an image of this person performing her job it you find this helpful.  Knowing the person’s hobbies and interests is another plus.  Again, you can form images of the person with her hobbies and interests if you find this helpful.  Knowing if the person is married and how many children, and of what kind and ages these children are good things to know.  If you find images helpful here, fine.  But the very act of devoting the time and attention to remember this information will facilitate memory.  Not only will this facilitate memory, but it will also facilitate your relationships.   Being able to recall this information and to work it into the conversation demonstrates to the individual that you both know and care about them. 

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2011. 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.

Another Memory Stunt to Build a Healthy Memory

May 20, 2010

Here’s another memory stunt that should impress, friends, enemies, and strangers. Should you protest that you are not interested in impressing any of these parties, then consider this memory stunt as memory exercise. The task is to recall the states of the union in the order in which they were admitted to the union. At the end of this list you’ll find tips on how best to accomplish this stunt.

  1. Delaware
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. New Jersey
  4. Georgia
  5. Connecticut
  6. Massachusetts
  7. Maryland
  8. South Carolina
  9. New Hampshire
  10. Virginia
  11. New York
  12. North Carolina
  13. Rhode Island
  14. Vermont
  15. Kentucky
  16. Tennessee
  17. Ohio
  18. Louisana
  19. Indiana
  20. Mississippi
  21. Illinois
  22. Alabama
  23. Maine
  24. Missouri
  25. Arkansas
  26. Michigan
  27. Florida
  28. Texas
  29. Iowa
  30. Wisconsin
  31. California
  32. Minnesota
  33. Oregon
  34. Kansas
  35. West Virginia
  36. Nevada
  37. Nebraska
  38. Colorado
  39. North Dakota
  40. South Dakota
  41. Montana
  42. Washington
  43. Idaho
  44. Wyoming
  45. Utah
  46. Oklahoma
  47. New Mexico
  48. Arizona
  49. Alaska
  50. Hawaii

Tricks for these stunts can be found in the previous blog posts, “More on Remembering Numbers,” and “Remembering Names.”

  1. Picture Della Wearing a Tie
  2. Picture Noah landing the ark in Pennsylvania
  3. Picture Ma wearing a New Jersey

    You take it from here.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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 is Going On a Hiatus, But That Should Make Little Difference

April 30, 2010

There have been more than one hundred postings to this blog, so there is much to peruse. Although I do make an attempt to make new findings in human cognition available, timeliness is not an objective for the most part. The fundamental premise underlying this blog is that there is no magic road to a healthy memory.

Clicking on the About link in the sideboard will provide information about the blog and the blog’s author. There are three themes that this blog pursues.

One theme is that an understanding of human memory and cognition is fundamental to a healthy memory. Understanding how memory works and how well memory performs at different ages is important. It is also important to have a basic understanding of the basic limitations and shortcomings of human memory so that cognitive errors and biases can be recognized and compensated for.

A second theme deals with mnemonic techniques. Mnemonic techniques have been around since the Ancient Greeks. They are proven techniques that not only boost memory performance but provide exercise that fosters a healthy memory.

The third theme is called transactive memory. Transactive memory refers to those memories that are outside your biological brain. They reside in other human beings and in all types of technology from books and paper to the vast expanses of cyberspace. Transactive memory provides vast resources for cognitive and social growth as well as for a healthy memory.

You can being at the beginning (that is at the bottom of the blog postings as the most recent postings appear at the top of the blog) moving upwards reading blogs of interest. Be aware that to benefit fully from this blog, you need to do more than read the postings. You need to try and practice the mnemonic techniques and pursue topics in transactive memory that interest you.

Another strategy is to go by the links listed under Categories and pursue the topics of most interest to you.

Should these links not be visible on the sideboard, then reenter the healthymemory.wordpress.com url and redisplay.

New postings should be coming in a matter of weeks.

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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.

Memory Demonstration—The Presidents of the United States

April 29, 2010

  So, why should you memorize the Presidents of the United States in  the order which they served without an upcoming test. Well, you might want to impress your friends (and perhaps those whom you would like to have as friends). Another reason might be that this is fun. But the most important reason is that exercises such as these can contribute to brain health.  Tips on how to memorize them are near the end of this post.

Here they are.

  1. George Washington Federalist
  2. John Adams Federalist
  3. Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican
  4. James Madison Democratic-Republican
  5. James Monroe Democratic-Republican
  6. John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican
  7. Andrew Jackson Democratic
  8. Martin Van Buren Democratic
  9. William Henry Harrison Whig
  10. John Tyler Whig
  11. James Knox Polk Democratic
  12. Zachary Taylor Whig
  13. Millard Fillmore Whig
  14. Franklin Pierce Democratic
  15. James Buchanan Democratic
  16. Abraham Lincoln Republican
  17. Andrew Johnson Democratic/National Union
  18. Ulysses S. Grant Republican
  19. Rutherford B. Hayes Republican
  20. James A. Garfield Republican
  21. Chester A. Arthur Republican
  22. Grover Cleveland Democratic
  23. Benjamin Harrison Republican
  24. Grover Cleveland Democratic
  25. William McKinley Republican
  26. Theodore Roosevelt Republican
  27. William Howard Taft Republican
  28. Woodrow Wilson Democratic
  29. Warren G. Harding Republican
  30. Calvin Coolidge Republican
  31. Herbert C. Hoover Republican
  32. Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic
  33. Harry S. Truman Democratic
  34. Dwight David Eisenhower Republican
  35. John F. Kennedy Democratic
  36. Lyndon B. Johnson Democratic
  37. Richard M Nixon Republican
  38. Gerald R. Ford Republican
  39. Jimmy Carter Democratic
  40. Ronald W. Reagan Republican
  41. George H.W. Bush Republican
  42. Bill Clinton Democratic
  43. George W. Bush Republican
  44. Barack Hussein Obama Democratic

So, what’s the trick to learning these? They can be found in the previous blot posts, “More on Remembering Numbers” and ”Remembering Names”

  1. Picture a Tie around the picture of Washington on a dollar bill. Picture him reading the Federalist papers
  2. Picture Noah Adding the numbers of animals boarding the Ark (who are reading the Federalist papers).
  3. Picture Ma lecturing Thomas Jefferson as the child who would grow up to write the Declaration of Independence. Add elephants and donkeys to your mental image.

Now take it from here.

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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: You Need Not Pay for It

April 26, 2010

“Brain-training software may be a waste of time. People who played “mind-boosting” games made the same modest cognitive gains as those who spent a similar amount of time surfing the web.”1 This conclusion comes from a study done by Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, who tested brain-training software on volunteers recruited through a BBC television program.

There are many commercial programs that claim to contribute to healthy memories, but many are not based on scientific evidence and do not come with experimental evalutions of their effectiveness. When they do come with scientific evaluations of their effectiveness, it is important to note the nature of the control group that was used for comparison. Studies where the benefits of web-surfing were compared against a control group that did nothing special showed the benefits of web-surfing. In the English study where brain-training software was compared against a web-surfing control group, no benefits were found.

So before spending money out of pocket to build a healthy memory, consider what can be done for free. The Healthymemory Blog advocates using the internet as a means of maintaining and building brain health. We advocate going beyond simple web-surfing and building social relationships and learning substantive bodies of knowledge. This is called transactive memory and is one of the three themes of this blog.

We also believe that having a fundamental understanding of the way that memory and cognitive works is helpful in building a healthy memory. Here you build an understanding of memory performance and how it changes as we age. You will also become aware of fundamental shortcomings of memory, the consequences of these shortcomings, and how to avoid them. Accordingly, Human Memory is another one of the three theses of this blog.

A third theme involves mnemonic techniques themselves. These are techniques that have been around since the time of the ancient Greeks that can lead to phenomenal memory performance. Here memory techniques are addressed directly. Using them not only can improve memory, but the act of using them can also improve your ability to concentrate and provide exercise for a healthy memory.

1Callaway, E. (2010). Skills from the mind gym don’t transfer. New Scientist, 24 April, 10

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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.

Creating and Remembering Pin Codes and Passwords

April 17, 2010

For most of us creating and remembering pin codes and passwords is an onerous task. They are required for personal finance, personal activities, as well as on our jobs. Moreover, often there is a requirement to change them periodically. Normally it is not appropriate to write them down, so we need to commit them to memory. Most of use have personal tricks we use. When they do work, stick with them. But often the requirements are so demanding that our personal tricks run out.

So you might need a system for both creating and remembering pin codes and passwords. The creation part is key. Having a good system for generating pin codes and passwords is essential to remembering them. This post will show how you can use the techniques provided in other postings of this blog to create pin codes and passwords so that they can be remembered.

Let’s consider numbers first. They can be a requirement for pin codes and can also be a requirement for passwords. The following postings provide techniques for remembering numbers: “Remembering Numbers” , “More on Remembering Numbers” , “Three Digit Numbers”, and “Remembering Even Larger Numbers.” These techniques convert numbers into meaningful words that can be formed into images and easily recalled. You link this converted word to an image of the organization to which it is needed (an image of the Bank of America, for example). [The blog post “How to Remember Abstract Information” can be helpful when the item that needs to be associated is abstract].

You can also use this as a system for changing passwords, by simply changing the numerical value you give for the new password. Numbers alone can be added to the password. Sometimes they are a requirement. It is helpful to add them systematically to the beginning or ending of the password. Sometimes simply changing the number can satisfy the requirement for changing the password.

The blog post “Remembering the Letters of the Alphabet” provides a system for making isolated letters into words and hence both more meaningful and easier to image. This can be added to your bag of tricks. You could use them in a system to alphabetize the passwords you use on different computers and different websites.

As for special characters such as *#$, etc, it is good to place them at the beginning or end of the password, to do it consistently, and to rely upon the same special characters all the time.

One of the best techniques for creating strong (hard to be broken) passwords is to use foreign words. The blog post “More on Recoding: Learning Foreign and Strange Vocabulary Words” should be helpful here.

Although if is usually not accepted to write them down, it is a good idea to use what this blog terms “transactive memory.” They do need to be kept secure, however. So recording them in an encrypted file is a good idea as a backup system.

[These postings can all be found under the category, “Mnemonic Techniques, “ or by entering the title of the post into the search block. If these items are not visible on your right hand border, enter healthymemory.wordpress.com into the URL box.]

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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 Letters of the Alphabet

April 13, 2010

 You might well ask, why would I need to remember letters in the alphabet. Well one reason is that they, like numbers, appear in product codes, in stock market symbols, where they often have no apparent meaning. So the mnemonic technique is to make letters meaningful. Here’s a sample list of words that can make simple letters more meaningful.

a          apple

b          bow

c          car

d          dog

e          elephant

f           fox

g          golf

h          house

I           India

j           joker

k          king

l           leaf

m         mare

n          noon

o          office

p          pea

q          queen

r           rook

s           sole

t           tea

u          upset

v          Viking

w         wing

x          xylophone

y          yearling

z          zebra

So say you needed to remember the letter AJV. You could form a mental image of an Apple being thrown by a Joker at a Viking.

There are other lists that make letters more meaningful. One is the NATO Phonetic Alphabet used by the military

Letter phonetic letter
A Alpha
B Bravo
C Charlie
D Delta
E Echo
F Foxtrot
G Golf
H Hotel
I India
J Juliet
K Kilo
L Lima
M Mike
N November
O Oscar
P Papa
Q Quebec
R Romeo
S Sierra
T Tango
U Uniform
V Victor
W Whiskey
X X-ray
Y Yankee
Z Zulu

 

Another is the Phonetic Alphabet used by Western Union

Letter phonetic letter
A Adams
B Boston
C Chicago
D Denver
E Easy
F Frank
G George
H Henry
I Ida
J John
K King
L Lincoln
M Mary
N New York
O Ocean
P Peter
Q Queen
R Roger
S Sugar
T Thomas
U Union
V Victor
W William
X X-ray
Y Young
Z Zero

 

These alphabets are used primarily to clarify the pronunciation of letters, but they also provide mnemonics for making letters more meaningful. When letters and numbers are mixed you can employ the techniques for remembering numbers presented in the blogs, “Remembering Numbers, “More on Remembering Numbers”, “Three Digit Numbers”, and “Remembering Even Larger Numbers.”

[These postings can all be found under the category, “Mnemonic Techniques, “ or by entering the title into the search block. If these items are not visible on your right hand border, enter healthymemory.wordpress.com into the URL box.]

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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 Playing Cards

April 10, 2010

Here’s a coding system for each card in each of the suites that uses the first letter of the suit with the number from the consonant sound system (See the Blog Post “Remembering Numbers”)

AS       SooT

2S        SuN

3S        SuM

4S        SeweR

5S        SaiL

6S        SaSH

7S        SaCK

8S        SaFe

9S        SouP

10S      SouSe

AH      HaT

2H       HuN

3H       HaM

4H       HaRe

5H       HaiL

6H       HasH

7H       HooK

8H       HooF

9H       HooP

10H     HouSe

AD      DaTe

2D       DuNe

3D       DaMe

4D       Door

5D       DoLL

6D       DiSH

7D       DoCK

8D       DoVe

9D       DoPe

10D     DoSe

Fine, you say,  but what about the face cards?  Well, the face cards are pictures to begin with, but they can still stand some elaboration

KS       A king in all his regalia, digging a hole with a spade

QS       A queen holding a space for the king

JS        A jack carrying a bunch of spades.

KH      A king, in love with the queen, with a big throbbing heart

QH      A queen, in love with the king, with a big throbbing heart

JH        the jack with a broken heart

KD      a King decked out in diamonds

QD      a Queen decked out in diamonds

JD        a jack stealing away with a diamond 

KC      a King exercising with Indian clubs

QC      a Queen exercising with Indian clubs

JC        a jack juggling clubs

So, you should have the idea.   Feel free to develop your own images for the cards.

Often it is useful to keep track of what cards have been played.  One way to do this is to mentally destroy the image of each card played.  Some mnemonists are able to observe someone going through a deck of cards and identify the card or cards that are missing using this technique.  However, to accomplish this feat requires a substantial amount of practice.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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 Months

April 8, 2010

Here are some mnemonics for remembering months.

January            an image of the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena, CA

February          an image of a groundhog

March              strong winds making a kite to break its string

April                rain showers, what else

May                 flowers, what April showers bring, what else

June                 a bride

July                  fireworks on the 4th of July

August             the dog days of August, a hot sweltering day

September       Labor Day, the end of summer vacation

October           beautiful fall foliage

November       Thanksgiving Day and turkey with all the trimmings

December        Christmas and good ol’ Santa Claus

 You can use this for remembering birthdays if you add the techniques for remembering numbers (See the Blog Post “More on Remembering Numbers.”)   Suppose you wanted to remember Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  It falls on February 12.  So you could form a mental image of Honest Abe with a tin (12) groundhog.  Or suppose you wanted to remember my birthday, May 6.  Here you could image me, or whatever you may think I look like, with a shoe (6) in a bed of flowers. 

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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.

Common Sense Prospective Memory Techniques

April 5, 2010

Prospective memory refers to memory to do things. Here are some common sense techniques. Only a few examples are provided, but they should be enough so that you get the idea.

Suppose you need to run some errands on your way to work. You have laundry to drop off at the dry cleaners, books to be returned to the library, and a child to take to day care. Leave the laundry and books by the door by which you are going to leave the house and ask, or leave (depending on the age of the child) the child to stay with them and watch them. Of course, the laundry and books can be left the evening before, but you should show some consideration for your child. Having everything organized and in the place you need to pass before you leave reduces the chances of forgetting anything to about zero. It is a good idea to take the child with you. I know of at least one case where the father told to the child to wait on the porch while he took the car out of the garage. The child then looked forlorn as his father drove away without him.

Suppose you have something cooking in the oven and the timer either does not work or does not give an adequate warning. Leave a cooking pan in the room with you and take that pan with you wherever you go. The external cue of the pan should prevent you from forgetting what you have going in the oven.

An early post to this blog, “Prospective Memory and Technology”, wrote of the increased incidence of parents forgetting about their children in car seats that has resulted from requiring these seats to be placed in the back seat. The saying out of sight, out of mind, can be painfully true. The stories of parents stopping by their day care to pick up their child, only to discover that they had forgotten to drop off the child in the morning and that the child was dead in the car are painful. But this is an understandable error of prospective memory. Leaving a doll or some reminder that the child is in the back of the car could reduce the incident of these tragedies to virtually zero.

 © Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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.

Harry Lorayne: Ageless Mnemonist

March 29, 2010

I was most pleased to come across Harry Lorayne’s book, Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young. Harry Lorayne is probably the foremost mnemonist and advocate of mnemonic techniques. Mnemonic techniques are techniques designed for improving memory. A mnemonist is an expert practitioner of mnemonic techniques. He has demonstrated fantastic memory feats on television and throughout the world. The Book of Genius (Stanley Paul Publishers, 1994) discusses his record of having met and remembered the names and faces of more than 7,500,00 people. He has written many books on memory techniques, the best known being probably being the best seller that he wrote with basketball great, Jerry Lucas, The Memory Book. Ageless Memory discusses most, if not all, of the techniques in The Memory Book, plus a few more. There is a chapter that applies mnemonic techniques to computer tasks. Each chapter includes a “Special Mind-Power” Exercise.

Lorayne provides two reasons for using these techniques. One is the most obvious one, they can improve your memory. The second is that using these techniques can keep your memory healthy and young. Readers of the Healthymemory Blog will recognize that one of the themes of this blog is devoted to memory techniques, and the justification for this theme is the same as Harry Lorayne’s. They will not only improve your memory, but they should also foster brain health and keep your brain young as you age. There is also reason to think that you can improve your memory as you age, so that it is better than you were young.

Healthymemory Blog has three themes. One theme is titled “Human Memory: Theory and Data.” This theme presents data on human memory documenting its fallibility. Your memory was probably never as good as you thought it was. It is important to have a good understanding of memory so that you can be aware of its shortcomings and biases so that you are able to compensate for these shortcomings and biases and to take remedial action.

The second theme is mnemonic techniques, that we have already discussed. Here you can find a wide variety of techniques that not only will improve memory, but will also foster brain health.

The third theme is transactive memory which explores how both technology and fellow humans can aid and enhance memory.

The blog postings under these categories can be found along the sidebar. If you cannot see these categories along the sidebar, type healthymemory.wordpress.com into the URL space for your browser and hit enter.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2010. 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 Names

January 27, 2010

The basic problem for most people is that we do not pay attention to the name when the person is introduced.  Usually we are thinking of what we are going to say or some other aspect of the situation and we miss the name.  So the first rule to remember people’s names is to pay attention when we are introduced or first hear the name.  It is good to repeat the person’s name when you are introduced.  Most people will be flattered when you express interest in their name.  So if you ask a question about it, you will both flatter the person and strengthen your memory.  By now you know that to remember something you need to make it meaningful.  .  Some names are inherently meaningful, for example, Rose, Temple, Church, Carpenter.  Take advantage of this.  You also know that forming mental pictures or images enhance memorability.  So you could imagine the individual holding a rose, going into a temple, going into a church, or working as a carpenter.  Concentrate on the sound rather than the spelling of the name.  Consider the following names and how easy it is to form a mental image of them:  Taylor, Cook, Barber, Skinner, Glazer, Pacer, Blocker, Fisher, Shepherd,  Potter, Mayer, Forman, Judge, King, Noble, Winter, Sommer, Spring, Snow, Rains, Bagel, Crown, Bridges, Turner, Brown, Miller, Coyne, Glass, Bell, Tucker, Katz, Bolling, Frett, Powers, Freed, Hart, Stamp, Walker, Graves, Berry, Gill, Storm, Rich, Post, Marsh, Moore, Roper, Hyde, Prince, Park, Price, Holliday, Colt, Rodes, Fawcett, Holland, Bush, Bushman, Martini, Land, Baker, Brooks, Porter, Love, Mailer, Tanner, Baron, Ashe, Banks, Allwood, Tower, Crater, Fountain, Hedges, Bloom, Starr, Burr, Fairweather, Feather, Lemmon, Cobb, Roach, Cruz, Plummer, Trapper, Bateman, Gates, Bellow, Rivers, Keyes, Bishop, Goldwater, Ford,  Booth, Foote, Trout, Gallup, Carver, Potts, March, Bolt, Garland, Byer, Angel, Farmer, Brewer, Webb, Dancer, Flagg, Bowler, Spinner, Nichols, Bowes, Silver, Gold, Frank, Marshall, Lane, Boyle, Knot, Teller, Steel, Bacon, Klapper, Pullman, Archer, and Kane.  There are many more, these are just some examples.  Some other names can be made more memorable with a little elaboration.  Smith, a common name, is one that is especially embarrassing to forget.  Smith can easily be elaborated to blacksmith.  Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt are also hotel names so you can form a specific image for each hotel.  See if the sound of the name can be converted into an image that you can then combine with the image of the person or certain features on a person’s face.

            Another technique is to see if the name is shared by someone who is famous.  For example, if the name was Hooper, you could think of the actor, Dennis Hooper.   Given all the famous and historical people there are, this provides a rich source of remember names.  Consider the following names:  Winfrey (Oprah), De Niro (Robert), Spears (Britney), Hughes (Howard),  Kidman (Nicole), Brokaw (Tom), Parton (Dolly), Picasso (Pablo), Armstrong (Louis), Beethoven (Ludwig Von), Mozart (Wolfgang), Warhol (Andy), Hoffman (Dustin), Bancroft (Ann), Brooks (Mel), Allen ( Woody), Gable (Clark), Cooper (Jackie), Marx (Groucho, or Chico, or Harpo), Streep (Meryl), Redford (Robert), Reiner (Carl or Rob), Seinfield (Jerry), Bonds (Barry), Castro (Fidel), Lee (Robert E), Aaron (Hank), Williams (Ted), Mantle (Mickey), Jeter (Derek), Rodriguez (Alex), Torre (Joe), and Sinatra (Frank).  Former Presidents can also be used, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt (Franklin or Teddy), Lincoln, Washington.  They key here is that you be able to form a clear image of the former President or any famous person you are using to help you remember the name.  You form an image of the person you are trying to remember with the famous person sharing the same name.  There is no need to match for sex or age, all you need to is to form an image so that when you see the person, it triggers the image and you are able to recall the name.  Do not overlook the obvious.  If the name is meaningful, associate the person with an image of the sound of the name.  If the person shares a famous name, form an image of the person interacting with the famous personage.

            Still, there will be many names that are new and strange and do not immediately suggest an image.  These names require a little work in recoding the sound of the name so that a meaningful image can be formed.  Consider the recodings for the following names:

Dembowski                 a donkey (Dem for Democrat) with a bow on a ski

Rudolph                      the red nosed reindeer

Wellington                  imagine beef Wellington if you can’t imagine the Duke

Gibbons                       imagine primates playing

Rossitter                      someone sitting on roses

Lewyckyj ( pronounced loo wit ski)   someone in the lou drinking whiskey wearing skis

Bordelais                     a lay of flowers placed on a border

Lembo                         someone dancing the limbo

Harrington                   someone issue a harangue from a ton of steel

Leifester                      someone lying faster and faster

Now try generating your own images based on the sounds of the following names:

Altman

Caldwell

Eckstein

Forbes

Hamilton

Ingram

Lieberman

Nugent

Pomerantz

Zimmer

Kim

Ku

Yu

Rodriguez

Lopez

If you had problems with any of the above, here are some suggestions

Altman            an old man

Caldwell          a cold well

Eckstein          ink making a stain

Forbes             four bees

Hamilton         hammering a ton

Ingram             pouring ink on a ram

Lieberman       a man laboring, a labor man (union organizer?)

Nugent              a new gent (a new gentleman to whom you have been             introduced)

Pomerantz       a palm tree surrounded by aunts

Zimmer            a pot simmering

Kim                 imagine your next of Kin with M&Ms

Ku                   image a coup

Yu                   imagine a large letter “U”

Rodriguez       picture a rod reeking of gas

Lopez              picture someone who lopes

Remembering names will not only prevent embarassments, but the attention you exert in remembering the names will also likely contribute to your memory’s health.

© 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: 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.

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.

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.

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.

Inherent and Ad Hoc Mnemonics

November 9, 2009

The distinction between mnemonics and mnemonic techniques or mnemotechniques, is that mnemonics are usually specific to certain material, mnemonic techniques, or mnemotechniques, are general techniques for leaning material. The one-bun rhyme mnemonic (see previous blog on this technique) could be regarded as a mnemonic technique. More advanced mnemonic techniques will be presented in later blogs.

Sometimes information will contain its own inherent mnemonic. Say the pin number you need to remember is 1950 and you were born in 1950, that should be an outstanding mnemonic. Should you not have had the luck to be born in 1950, you might remember that 1950 was the year that the Korean War began. Now suppose you were trying to learn the following list of words: Baptist, Hockey, Apples, Sister, Oranges, Football, Brother, Catholic, Bananas, Mother, Moslem, Baseball. This list contains an implicit organizational mnemonic. Do you recognize it?

The twelve words can be grouped into four categories: religion, sports, relatives (or family members), and fruit. So, you could simply reorganize the list and recall: Baptist, Catholic, Muslim, Hockey, Football, Baseball, Sister, Brother, Mother, Apples, Oranges, Bananas.

All too often there is no apparent meaning, familiarity, or organization to the material, so you need to generate your own. Suppose you were trying to remember the following sets of letters: MKB, TLN, NGU. You could transform them into the following meaningful phrases: Mother Knows Best, Too Late Now, Never Give Up. These are, in effect, acronyms in reverse. Acronyms, however, can be used as mnemonics to remember specific information. To remember the names of the Great Lakes, there is the acronym HOMES, Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. ROY G. BIV is used to remember the colors in the spectrum in order of their wavelength, from long to short, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green Blue Indigo Violet.

Learning the names of the following twelve cranial nerves is a task that has confronted many students:

  • I-Olfactory nerve,
  • II-Optic nerve,
  • III-Oculomotor nerve,
  • IV-Trochlear nerve,
  • V-Trigeminal nerve,
  • VI-Abducens nerve,
  • VII-Facial nerve,
  • VIII-Vestibulocochlear nerve/Auditory nerve,
  • IX-Glossopharyngeal nerve,
  • X-Vagus nerve,
  • XI-Accessory nerve/Spinal accessory nerve and
  • XII-Hypoglossal nerve.

 

Consequently a host of mnemonics have been developed for learning them. Here’s one:

  1. On Old Olympus’ Towering Top A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops

There are many more that can be viewed at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mnemonics_for_the_cranial_nerves

 

Be forewarned, some might be regarded as vulgar or in poor taste.

 

 

© 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 Seven Sins of Memory

October 17, 2009

It is important not to attribute every memory failure to aging. Normal, healthy memory is far from perfect. An outstanding book by Daniel Schachter, The Seven Sins of Memory (How the Mind Forgets and Remembers)1,provides a good overview of memory failures. This brief blog provides a quick summary of these “sins.” They are transience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, and persistence.

Transience simply means that information in memory is transient. That is, it can be lost. Our minds are not recorders that record everything that happens. Most of the information that bombards us goes unattended and never makes it into memory. This is good as most of this information, and the term is being used loosely here, is of no value. The information might not have been attended to and been quickly lost from memory. Or the memory might have either decayed from memory or been lost among the billions upon billions of associations in memory and is for all intents and purposes, forgotten.

 Absent-mindedness refers to such failures as failing to remember where you put your keys, or to forget to stop by the dry cleaners on your way home. Absent-mindedness might be one of the most annoying memory failures. It might also be one of the most common reasons older people think that their memories are starting to fail. But absent-mindedness is a common occurrence among all age groups. The failure to pay attention, for example when you placed your keys down if you did not place them in a standard place, is the most likely cause of absent-mindedness. More will be written about absent-mindedness and techniques will be presented for dealing with it.

The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is an example of blocking. You know that you know the information, but you cannot recall it. It feels as if the information is on “the tip-of-your-tongue,” Something is blocking this information and preventing you from retrieving it. More will be written in subsequent blogs about blocking and how to deal with it.

Misattribution is a memory failure that has legal implications and can result in law enforcement officers pursuing red herrings or the conviction of innocent people. Misattributions are quite common. A psychologist was accused of rape based on the victim’s detailed description of his face. However, the psychologist was cleared because he had a rock-solid alibi; he was being interviewed on television (ironically on the fallibility of memory) when the rape occurred. The victim was watching the show and misattributed her memory of the psychologists face to the rapist. Unfortunately the courts, or more correctly juries, place great weight on eyewitness testimony. Due to misattribution errors, the innocent can be convicted. A recent analysis of forty cases in which DNA evidence exonerated wrongfully imprisoned individuals revealed that 36 of them (90%) involved mistaken eyewitness testimony. It is disconcerting when one looks at the number of convictions that have been overturned on the basis of new DNA evidence. More will be written about these issues in later blogs.

The sin of suggestibility can produce similar difficulties. Suggestibility in memory refers to the tendency to incorporate into personal recollections misleading information from external sources. These external sources can be other people, picture or written materials. The media can also be the source of misleading information. Schacter makes the following distinction between misattribution and suggestibility: they both involve the conversion of suggestions into inaccurate memories, but misattribution often occurs in the absence of overt suggestions. In the sin of suggestibility, the suggestions are overt.

Biases tend to help us feel better about our situations, our knowledge, and our opinions. Bias has a variety of causes. Information can be biased to make it consistent with our beliefs. When we are expecting a change we might remember a change that did not occur or exaggerate a change that did. There is a hindsight bias, or the “I knew it all along” bias. There is a tendency to think that we predicted certain events, when we did not. This is not simply a matter of lying, our minds have a tendency to work this way. There is also a tendency to remember ourselves in a light that is a tad more favorable than others might remember. And there is a wide variety of stereotypes around that do affect memories. It is important to be aware of these biases so we can correct or mitigate them. There will be more about this in future blogs.

Persistence refers to unwanted thoughts that keep occurring. A song or jingle that keeps running through one’s mind is an innocuous example of persistence, but persistence of certain thoughts can have pathological implications. Schacter recounts the tragic tale of the relief pitcher of the Los Angeles Angels, Donnie, Moore. He was brought in to relieve in a playoff game in a crucial situation against the Boston Red Sox. He served up the game winning home run from which the Angels did not come back. Consequently the Red Sox advanced to the World Series. The memory of this loss persisted in Moore’s memory and he sank into a deepening depression that undermined his marriage and his career. He shot his wife marriage and his career.  He shot his wife numerous times before committing suicide.

So clearly, memory problems do not begin with old age. They are with us throughout our lifetime. It is important to be aware of them and to understand them so our memories do not lead us astray.

1Schacter, D.  L. (2001).  Boston:  Houghton-Mifflin.