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The Trick to Remembering What You Learn

How would you like to remember more, especially for classes or other things that tend to be boring to you? Many years ago, a college psychology professor taught his students that there are a couple of tricks to doing just that, remembering even boring topics, and having used them many times, I can say that they really do work. It is a memory trick that helps you remember things.

To understand why it works so that it can be used, it is a good idea to have an inkling of how the memory functions.

There are two kinds of memory; short-term and long-term. Everything we are exposed to, sights, sounds, smells, are all stored in short-term memory. As one might imagine, the short-term memory becomes cluttered pretty quickly. During sleep and periodically through the day, there is a ‘memory dump’, mostly done by the subconscious mind, where much of the things stored in short-term memory are purged, while those things we deem as important or interesting are transferred to long-term memory. This is a key.

Only the conscious mind is capable of rational thought. The subconscious is responsible for primarily raw data and emotions. The conscious mind can persuade the subconscious mind to believe that virtually anything is interesting, even if it really isn’t.

There are several ways to do this. Almost everyone is acquainted with one of them…repetition. When we repeat something over and over and over, the subconscious begins to think that thing must honestly be interesting and it is transferred to long-term memory. Telling ourselves that something is interesting, even if we don’t really believe it, also works. Remember that the subconscious doesn’t rationalize, so if we consciously think to ourselves that something is important, even if we don’t believe it, the subconscious accepts that importance as a fact.

For me, I’ve found that the best method of all is to use as many different senses as possible when I want to remember something. For instance, let’s say my wife hands me a grocery list with twenty items on it. I look at the items, then go to the store, but without the list. I would be doing good to remember half the items on the list. I’ve only used one sense: Sight.

Now let’s say that I am the one who writes the list. I then read the list I wrote, and speak each item out loud. I’m using 3 senses: Touch, sight, and hearing. I’m also using repetition by writing reading them aloud. If I then go to the store without the list, is very likely that I will remember more than three-fourths of the items on the list and perhaps all of them. Yet all I’ve done is to convince my subconscious that the information was important and interesting.

This can be used with names, with studies and in general, in all facets of life. You can combine the hearing, sight, and touch with repetition, too. This simply increases the chance of you remembering. Using association also works, particularly with names.

At times, such as when I have an important appointment in the morning, I will write it down on a sticky note, then stick it to the corner of my monitor. I will then look at the note, read it aloud, then purposely look at the on-off switch on the monitor. I will look at the note, read it and look at the monitor button four or five times. Nearly always, even if I don’t look at the sticky note the next morning, I will remember what it says the moment I turn on the monitor. The act of pushing the monitor button triggers the memory.

I’ve used three senses, repetitiously, then associated the message with the button on the monitor that I am almost certainly going to be pushing. To the subconscious, the message must be important so it is put in long-term memory. It also notes that there is also something important about the button that apparently has to do with the message. It thus connects the two things; message, and button. Remember that the subconscious is incapable of rational thought so it doesn’t question what a button has to do with remembering the appointment, nor does it wonder why remembering the appointment is important. It just knows that it is, so it is a memory that is to be saved.

See how simple this is? We aren’t talking about rocket science. It is extremely easy to try it and to do it. It also works surprisingly well, most of the time.

For many people, reading something out loud may be embarrassing, too. However, if they just try this, they might find that this is very helpful in learning and remembering. It is sure worth a try, don’t you think?


What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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    • The funny part is that when the professor taught the topic of how to remember, there was only one week left in the term. Quite a few students complained, saying that they could have used the information earlier, like when the term started. The professor got a kick out of that. I did, too. The implication was that the others found psychology boring and were having a hard time remembering it. I found it fascinating, so I simply used the techniques for life in general. lol

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