Sunday, May 4, 2008

To Remember What You Read

Have you ever read something of significant value, but the next day or maybe even the next hour you were not able to recall what you had read? There are many reasons for this, which I discuss in my books on how to remember scripture. But as we learn new things there is a natural tendency to forget what we have just previously learned. It's called interference. New memories can crowd out or interfere with previously learned information, unless... we can somehow transfer that information from or fragile short-term memory (which lasts only a few seconds) into long term storage first.

There are two simple strategies for doing this - (1) creating sensory rich pictures as we go, and (2) anchoring these images to something familiar. These two simple strategies once learned and applied can vastly improve information storage and ease of retrieval. And what's more, they can actually both be accomplished at the same time in one easy process. I'll explain, and then you can try it for yourself.

We've all heard the phrase "A picture is worth a thousand words." And so it is, especially when it comes to remembering. Our brain works well with pictures or images. Particularly familiar images are easy to store and retrieve while abstract concepts or ideas are hard for our brain to hold on to. That is one reason why Jesus taught in parables. These evoked images that were easy for them to picture identify with and later recall. So here is how you can anchor what you learn, for later easy access.

If you are about to read something that will be important for you to remember, first take a moment to identify a place you are familiar with, where you can tie or anchor this information to. It could be your backyard, some place in your neighborhood, a park, your local church, school or any other place you know well. Then try to picture the events or the essence of the information you are reading about, in that particular setting in sensory rich detail. That means taking just a few seconds to make those pictures or images vivid, with color, texture, even action. See the information, imagine how it feels, and add any sounds, smells or tastes that might be associated with these images in that setting. All this will help to create a much more memorable picture, anchored to a specific place.

So the next time you want this information you will know right where to go in your mind (on your mental map) to locate it, in rich detail.

Of course more information for creating sensory rich images, anchors and mental maps can be found in my books, but if you will just take a few minutes to practice this simple memory strategy next time you need to remember something you read, I think you will find your memory to be much more capable than you had previously thought.
Until next time, this is Dave Larsen.


Anne Bradshaw said...

I love this idea. Sounds like a winner. Now, if I can only keep remembering how to do it . . . :-)

Rebecca Talley said...

I find that if I can explain what I've just read, it becomes part of my long-term memory.

I'll try what you suggested and see how that works. Thanks.