Strategies for Better Memory & Learning

Articles

Vocabulary is a sticking point for many language learners. That’s because words have a certain arbitrary quality that makes them hard to memorize. There are two strategies which are very effective with this task: the keyword mnemonic, and retrieval practice. I have written about these...

I’ve recently had a couple of thoughts about flow — that mental state when you lose all sense of time and whatever you’re doing (work, sport, art, whatever) seems to flow with almost magical ease. I’ve mentioned flow a couple of times more or less in passing, but today I want to have a deeper...

If you have a numbered list to memorize, the best mnemonic strategy is the pegword mnemonic. This mnemonic uses numbers which have been transformed into visual images. Here's the standard 1-10 set.

I add two more:

To apply the strategy to a list, you visualize these...

I talk a lot about how working memory constrains what we can process and remember, but there’s another side to this — long-term memory acts on working memory. That is, indeed, the best way of ‘improving’ your working memory — by organizing and strengthening your long-term memory codes in such a...

A fascinating article recently appeared in the Guardian, about a woman who found a way to overcome a very particular type of learning disability and has apparently helped a great many children since.

As a child, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young had a brilliant, almost photographic, memory for...

Song is a wonderful way to remember information, although some songs are better than others. Songs that help you remember need to have simple tunes, with a lot of repetition -- although a more complex tune can be used if it is very familiar. Most importantly, the words should be closely tied to...

The story method (sometimes called the sentence mnemonic) is the most easily learned list-mnemonic strategy, although it is not as widely known as the other simple methods we’ve talked about so far.

As its name suggests, the story method involves linking words to be learned in a story....

Creating a face-name association
  • Select a distinctive feature of the face (nose).
  • Select a word or phrase that sounds like the name (con rat for Conrad).
  • Create an interactive image linking the distinctive feature with the keyword(s) (a man in a prisoner’s uniform — con...

A general distinction you can make is that between:

  • direct study, and
  • learning from context

Direct study is more important when you're learning a non-cognate language. It's also more important in the initial stages of learning a language. Learning from context...

The method of loci or place method

This is the classic mnemonic strategy, dating back to the ancient Greeks, and is (as evident from its continued use over 2500 years) an extremely effective strategy for remembering lists.

First of all, you choose a place you know very very well. Perhaps...

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