Welcome back to our theoretical and practical guide to memory! Be sure to check out part one and part two if you haven’t already. If you’ve followed our journey through memory now you’ll understand a few of the overarching principles behind memory. Encoding information goes hand in hand with creating effective cues that reignite those memory traces. We must first encode semantically, then create distinct cues for memories.

Beginning Psychology has a few interesting insights on improving memory. We’ll outline them below: 

  1. Use elaborate encoding: we’re more likely to remember information that has been understood fully; study a subject in detail and go beyond the facts you need to learn. Why not contextualise the information you need to recall by looking at the wider topic?   
  2. Make use of the self-reference effect: Satisfy the ego by thinking about yourself in reference to the information. How would you deal with a particular issue? How would you apply a theory to a topic? This can greatly aid in recall.   
  3. Be aware of the forgetting curve: Without reviewing, it’s likely we’ll forget the information. Review often and build on the information you’ve already learnt to help the brain make a broad web of connections.   
  4. Make use of the spacing effect: Small and often appears to help with retention and retrieval. Studying in short bursts daily, for example, as opposed to cramming is much more beneficial for forming long-term memories.   
  5. Rely on overlearning: There’s seemingly no limit to the long-term memory, so continuing to study a relevant topic is unlikely to have negative effects. Instead, overlearning could build and strengthen the knowledge we need by forcing us to employ that knowledge as a basis for future learning.   
  6. Use context-dependent retrieval: Recall of information is more likely if it occurs in the same place the information was encoded. It may be difficult to employ this tip, but if you’re learning in the room you’ll be taking your exam in, great news!   
  7. Use state-dependent retrieval: Much like point 6, having the same psychological state for encoding and recall aids in the retrieval of information. If you were nervous when the information was learnt, you might find examination stress to be quite useful!   

Now you should have an idea of how our brains create memories; why not employ some of the tips above the next time you’re studying?   

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