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Strategies for Improving Memory

Strategies for Improving Memory

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify the encoding strategies that can aid memory and learning.

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Hello class. So with an understanding of memory from a psychological perspective and how it works, there are certain ways that we can actually improve memory and make it easier for us to remember information. Now remember, memory consists of three stages. We have encoding, we have storage, and we have retrieval of information. So where improving each of these in some way could help us to remember and recall information. So we'll go over some of those strategies in this lesson.

So first repetition and rehearsal are two basic kinds of ways that memories can be coded into our long term memory appropriately, and this can ensure that they're not forgotten. So the more times we hear it, or the more times we say it, makes it more likely for those things to stick in our minds. However, using elaborative processing in which you connect new ideas to old ones and make those connections to the memory stronger, provides better retention over all. So simply repeating or rehearsing isn't necessarily the best to get the most solid results.

One way that we can elaborately process information is by organizing that information. Which is to say that we put each piece into a meaningful group. And that way that information, which is related to each other, is more likely to stick together as a whole within our memories, because we understand it better. For example, grouping words that are similar to each other that we're trying to memorize-- things like all the colors, if we memorize those together, or all the verbs, all the things that say what people do. So that can be one way.

Also select important information to remember and boiling it down it's a smaller more digestible parts can also help in retention. And this is like when we are summarizing information. This is because we're not memorizing everything verbatim, but rather we're just trying to get the important ideas. And that process of summarizing also helps us to make it meaningful within our own minds.

These next strategies apply to when we're learning large amounts of information. There are several different approaches that we can use to improve the learning and the retention of those memories regarding that information. So first, when you're learning, let's say a whole or large selection of information-- things like a speech or a poem-- it's better to learn this selection as a whole versus breaking it down into individual parts, like trying to memorize each sentence or each line or something like that. The reason why is because we remember larger more meaningful pieces easier than shorter or less meaningful pieces. We can also understand things as a whole better, because we can understand how each piece fits together.

Also, when we're learning let's say a list of information-- so things that aren't necessarily as related-- you're more likely to remember the first and the last items within that list. This is something called the serial position effect. So it's useful in keeping that in mind to pay more attention to the things that are in the middle of that list, because you're more likely to forget those things. So that way you can remember the list as a whole better.

Now, when you're learning any kind of information, you should continue to study things after you're able to simply remember those things. This is called over learning. And the reason why is because this ensures through practice that you're better able to consolidate those memories within your mind, and you'll be more likely to remember them for a longer period of time afterwards. This is different from just simply learning those kinds of things so that you feel like it's sufficient. Because given a different kind of situation or different kinds of environmental concerns, you might be more likely to forget that information.

Lastly, the use of cues and aids in retrieving information can also be helpful in remembering that information better for later use. So for example, cues, first, are environmental stimuli that are present when a person learns about that information in the first place. In other words, when they encode it into their memory that help the person to remember or retrieve that information later on.

For example, if you visualize the room that you're going to be taking a test it in while you're studying. When you're thinking about that room specifically and trying to put yourself within that room, you're actually going to be able to better recall or retrieve that information later when you're actually inside of that room. Because you're thinking well this is just like the environment in which I learned that information. It would be even better if you can just study in that room in the first place. But visualizing it has been found to also be effective.

Another tactic you can use is mnemonics. And mnemonics are any kinds of systems or techniques that help people to remember and recall information later on. And these are very popular. You've probably heard of lots of different types of mnemonics. For example, there are lots of different rhymes especially, or different kinds of sayings or groups of words. An example of this is, if you've ever heard the rhyme, 30 days hath September, April, June, and November. That would be a helpful way of remembering which months of the year have 30 days within them. Another example is, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally, which is a map mnemonic that helps you to remember the order of operations. Please starts with p and that's why we start with parentheses, excuse, E for exponents, and so on and so forth.

So you can see how these can help us to give little clues as to what the information is that we want to recall. And one last tactic to better remember is the keyword method. And this is a way in which you use familiar words and images to remember new words or information. For example, when you're learning a foreign language, a lot of times the words don't stick with you. They aren't meaningful to you in any kind of way, because they're totally different from the words that you know yourself.

So to remember, for example, the word for tuna in Korean, which is [KOREAN], I thought it sounded a little bit like someone who's eating something and they're very happy. This is a strange sort of thing. But I pictured somebody who is biting down on the tuna, so he's going, chung. So the sound had lent itself to a visual within my mind. And then chi, when you say that, makes you look like you're smiling. l linked this in my mind, because I like tuna myself. So this was a helpful wait for me to visualize and use the sounds that are linked to that to understand that word better.

So you can see how all of these different tactics that we use for better memorizing and remembering different kinds of information make use of our understanding of the memory system within our brain.

Terms to Know

Environmental stimuli present when a person learns the information that help a person to remember, or retrieve, information later.

Keyword Method

When a person uses familiar words or images to remember new words or information.


Different systems or techniques that help people to remember and recall information. (example ROYGBIV)


Placing information into meaningful groups.


When learning information, a person continues to study after he or she is able to simply remember it.


Repeating information to oneself, which allows one to retain information longer in the short-term memory.


Recognizing important information to remember and changing it into smaller, more digestible parts.

Serial Position Effect

When learning a list of information, a person is more likely to remember the first and last items on the list.

Whole versus Part Learning

Remembering larger, more meaningful pieces as a whole, which is easier than shorter, less meaningful pieces.