How does a person actually remember stuff?
This week’s question brought up a subject that I haven’t delved too deep into recently. I looked into this subject a while ago but haven’t done much about it recently. I get the impression it’s a subject should spend some time going over more. Without further ado:
I tried flashcards. I am still struggling to remember the information on the flashcards as I’m going through them. I go over the same flash cards hundreds of times but I can’t consistently remember them. I can get some of them but I never seem to be able to get most of them. I feel like I’m missing something involved in a recall based study strategy. Is it really as simple as repetition until the information sticks? It just doesn’t seem to work well for me. How do I actually remember the information I’m studying while using a recall based study strategy?
Remembering is something that happens naturally with important information.
If your life were on the line, I’m willing to bet your success rate would be near perfect. So the next time you’re studying you should do it DANGEROUSLY!!!! Okay… maybe not.
This point still stands, though. People tend to remember what they’re seriously motivated to remember.
Most students can do well with flashcards when they’re motivated. This is the first place I’d look into. It’s the most common place that students struggle.
Do you have a really good reason you want to learn the information? Is it something that stimulates you intellectually or competitively? Is there some internal urge to actually learn it or is it more of you just trying to do what you have to do? The better your motivation is, the better you’ll remember information.
Of course… maybe you’re wildly motivated and too stressed during the process. Are you worrying too much!?!? So many potential problems… how stressful… right?
These are just the first places you should be looking. Memorization happens easily when you’re motivated to remember (and not pumping stress hormones all through your body.)
Are you too stressed about this stuff? Are you not motivated? It’s hard to quantify these factors but I like to think of it this way:
If you have a problem in one of these two areas you should recognize it as a potential problem. If you feel like these might be your problem then try correcting them first. If you don’t think they’re the problem then you should dig further.
There are plenty of articles on this blog that can help with that like:
Memorization can be automatic but there are manual strategies to getting important information to stick.
You’ve probably heard of these strategies at some point in your life. The ultimate goal of all of the following strategies are to link stuff you know to stuff that you don’t know. Then by finding the information you know you also find the information you want to know.
A quick list:
- The Loci Method
These three strategies are some of the most common and powerful memorization strategies around.
These strategies are some of the easiest ways to start experimenting with your own memory.
How do you actually remember information?
You just link it to something you already know or can easily know. Memorizing information is a process of giving context to the information you’re trying to store. It’s about categorizing and organizing more than it’s about storing.
At times I’ve recommended studying like you remember absolutely everything you’re looking at. If you look at it then your brain “can” remember it. You just need to find a way to get your brain good at finding where it remembers it.
On this note: I’m going to be producing an awesome article about specific memorization strategies that should help. Keep an eye on the site for the next few weeks.