Memory Tricks and Techniques
We all could use a better memory, but not always for the same
reasons. Some people want to be able to recall facts and figures
as part of the work they do, while others want to remember the
names of the people they meet, for both social and business reasons.
The ability to have a mental list that is there to be consulted
when we wish (like at the grocery store) can be useful as well.
With these varying purposes in mind, here are a few memory tricks
and techniques which are easily learned and can be put to use
How to Recall Names
The first and perhaps hardest thing to do is to listen well
when you first hear someone's name. We sometimes are so busy
thinking about what we are going to say or ask, that we don't
really pay attention when we are introduced to people. Repeat
and "hear" the person's name in your imagination a
few times as soon as you hear it. This signals your unconscious
mind that it's something important enough to be remembered.
If the spelling is not evident, ask about it: "How is
that spelled?" Repeat the spelling aloud or in your mind.
Then make an association to help you remember the name. For example,
if his name is Bill Braun, and he is large, you might think "Billy
Brawney," while imagining his muscles all puffed up. If
it is Mary Franks, and you already know her husband, you might
think "She Married Franks."
Use whatever you can think of to make a memorable connection
in your mind. It can help to link some prominent feature of the
person to their name. For example, if Harry Smith has long hair,
you might think "Hairy Smith," and look at his hair
as you do this. Andrew Macon, if he looks a bit like a pig, could
be remembered as "Andrew Macon looks like bacon." Rhymes
Obviously you'll want to keep these images and labels to yourself.
They are simply meant to aid you in remembering. If you've seen
a memory expert memorize the names of fifty strangers in a room,
these are the kinds of methods likely used. They link body features
or personality traits to a person's name in some humorous or
unusual way. Of course, it does take practice to get good at
Acrostics are verses or a series of sentences in which certain
letters, usually the first in each line, form a word or message.
They are used as memory devices. For example, if we wanted to
remember a simple formula for solving problems or creating new
ideas, we could use the word "create," making a memorable
line starting with each letter:
E-employ other techniques
A-add ideas to a list
T-take the best from the list
E-elaborate on the ideas
This makes it easier to recall the six steps. As memory tools,
acrostics are limited, sometimes awkward, and there are many
techniques which are more reliable. On the other hand, it's fun
to invent them, and creating your own probably makes them more
Consider Supplements for Better Memory
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study
that found 20% of Americans deficient in Vitamin B12. One of
the first symptoms of deficiency is memory loss. Vegetarians
are potentially more susceptible to a deficiency, because B12
is found primarily in animal foods. The good news is that it
was also found that the synthetic B12 found in multi-vitamin
pills can correct a deficiency. In fact, it seems to be absorbed
better than the natural vitamin B12 found in meat.
Recent research also shows that women with low iron levels
might be at risk for memory and attention problems, as well as
poor mental function in general. The research was done with women
from 18 to 35 years old, and showed that those with normal iron
levels did better on tests than those with low levels. Tests
were also administered months later, and those who took supplements
in the meantime improved their scores in all areas.
The obvious lesson is to take those supplements. It seems
likely that the same results would be found with women from other
age groups, and perhaps even with men, but this has not been
tested to my knowledge.
The Remembrance Technique
This technique is an old Buddhist method for tapping into
the subconscious power of your brain. It is used to overcome
the feeling of hopelessness that can immobilize a person when
facing a difficult situation. It can also be used just to solve
The basic technique is this: when you are trying to decide
what to do or to solve a problem, you tell yourself to remember
the solution. You might say to yourself "Remember! How did
I solve this problem?" This idea that you have solved the
problem previously essentially tells your subconscious mind that
there is a solution, and that the answer is somewhere
in there. The brain (or mind) responds to this assumption by
searching for the solution. Our brains are always more powerful
than we realize, and sometimes we just need little tricks like
this to get beyond our self-imposed limitations. Why not try
the technique a few times this week?
More on Memory Improvement
I'll continue to report on the latest research related to
memory, in the Brainpower Newsletter, but there are also a few
other pages here on the website that you might want to check
out. There is a page with six
memory tips, and another on improving
your working memory (which some consider one of the most
important elements of intelligence). There is a page that explains
the well-known loci
memory system too. That one, you may recall, involves placing
the things that are to be memorized in set locations in your
imagination, so you can "find" them there when you
need them. It was used in ancient Rome to memorize speeches.
I can tell you from experience that it works.