How does the use of mental images, concept and schema help organise and improve our memories?
The brain, a fascinating organ, the intricacies of which may never fully be understood, composed of billions of neurons, controlling our movement, thoughts, emotions and memories. Near the centre of the brain, under the medial temporal lobe lies the hippocampus, essential in the formation of new memories and also factual memories.
Memory can be split into three groups; Episodic, where a memory is formed from a personal experience; Semantic, memory dawn on from factual knowledge and Procedural, where you have responses for various stimuli.
In this essay I’m going to research how we can improve and organise our memory using mental images, concepts and schema as well as looking at mnemonics, including the use of acronyms and the method of loci.
Mental imagery is the way in which individuals organise their thinking by visualising iconic images in our minds after the original stimuli is no longer in view. An example of this from Spoors et. al (2011 pg.45), there is a picture of a bell which is oozing a repugnant smell. Firstly you must consider a word which will aid in remembering the word “Poobelle” which is the French word for bin. In this case it was the word pooh, due to the smell. This technique has also been shown to work for people learning a foreign language. For example, the key word technique was devised by Michael Raugh & Richard Atkinson, (1975). They experimented with two groups. All the participants were required to learn 60 Spanish words, half using the key word technique. The results showed that those using the technique had an average score of 88%, whereas the other participants scored, on average 22%.
A further example of enhancing your memory is using mnemonics, this uses aids which are verbal, generally poems or short rhymes or songs as an alternative way of expanding memory, for example “30 days of September, April June and November all the rest have 28 days except February which has 28 days and 29 days in each leap year” spoors et.al (2011 pg 47), it is clear from this rhyme the amount of days in each month.
Mnemonics can also involve the use of acronyms such as STV (Scottish Television) along with a technique call the “Method of Loci” Spoors et al (2007), developed by the poet Simonides who lived in ancient Greece. This technique dates back to 500 B.C. It shows that with the use of pictures and association, this method can be excellent for remembering several items. This can be shown through the example of a shopping list. Items represent a place in the home for example bread the curtain, banana the door, a box of cereal the TV, cake the sofa and so forth.
These techniques demonstrate ways in which we are able to organise our thoughts and increase memory function. This can also be achieved through concepts, how we catalogue information.
Our brain categorises information, arranging it in a way in which it is simple to remember. For example, Weston Bousfield (1953) adapted by Spoors et. al (2011 pg 53), where a group of participants were asked to memorise a list of words that could be divided into four categories. This result shows that the participants were able to remember more words once they were given the categorising headings. Showing that without this organisation they would have found the task almost impossible.
Another example on concept was carried out by George Mandlier (1967), who suggested that “by organising information we learn it even though we are not making an effort to memorise it”. Spoors et.al. (2011 pg 53). With the Mandlier experiment, there were two groups of participants, each group were given 100 cards with words printed on them and told to sort the cards numerous times. One group were told to sort and memorise the words on the cards. When the group were tested the result shows the that group that were told the sort the cards only