The brain processes masses of information every day. Some of this information which must be recalled, first passes through the short term memory before settling in the long term memory, (Spoors et al, 2010). Mental images, concepts, and schemas are all to do with organising the thought process and improving recall, (Spoors et al, 2010). This essay will explore and define the use of mental images, concepts and schemas, in order to understand their effect on memory and how to improve it.
Mental images are a result of iconic thoughts. It is these iconic thoughts that help to improve the memory, by giving the brain cues to recall particular information, (Spoors et al, 2010). Adults mainly use semantic thought, (using words and meanings) but various experiments conducted support the suggestion that information can be retained better when using mental images, (Spoors et al, 2010). Information is found to be recalled better if the mental images are unusual and bright; this is because distinctive items stick in the memory more than everyday items, (Spoors et al, 2010).
Mnemonic is another tool for improving memory. This system uses the first letter of each word, to prompt the brain into recalling the correct information. An example of a mnemonic is 'Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain' to remember that the rainbow is made up of 'Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue Indigo and Violet, (Spoors et al, 2010). An early example of a mnemonic process would be the 'method of loci'. This method requires the individual to link mental images of the items they are trying to remember with a sequence of locations that they already know, (Spoors et al, 2010).
The key word technique developed by Raugh and Atkinson (1975) cited in Spoors et al (2010), can be used when learning a new language. This technique involves linking specific images to key words. For example, the French word for bin is "poubelle" (pronounced pooh-bell), it is easier to retain the newly learned word by visualizing a bell shaped bin with a strong stench emitting from it; rather than repeating the word in succession, (Spoors et al, 2010).
This is highlighted in an experiment conducted by Raugh and Atkinson (1975) cited in Spoors et al (2010). The experiment involved two groups of participants, both groups were requested to learn 60 Spanish words. One group, the experimental group were instructed to use the key word technique and the second group, the control group were not. Both groups were than given a memory test. The participants who used key words, scored an average of 88%. However, the control group's result was just 28%, (Spoors et al, 2010).
This experiment supports the theory that by memorising particular words as objects, enables the brain to recall them more easily.
Concepts or concept formation is another way in which thoughts can be organised, using categories. For example, 'animals' is a concept that contains other sub-concepts and further sub-concepts. Animals can be divided into birds and insects. Birds could then be divided into robins, doves and wrens, (Spoors et al, 2010). Categorizing objects or events is the process of mentally grouping objects with similar identities to assist with improving memory, (Spoors et al, 2010). For example, when thinking of birds most individuals would stipulate that they were to have wings, beaks, feathers and are able to fly. However, not all birds can fly, therefore concepts are not always clearly defined, (Spoors et al, 2010). The term 'fuzzy concept' highlights the issues with providing exact classification, (Spoors et al, 2010).
Mandler (1967) cited in Spoors et al, (2010) conducted an experiment with two groups of participants. Each group were given 100 cards with a word printed on it. The cards were then separated into groups. Only one group of participants