How good your memory is can be determined both objectively and subjectively. Dr. Gary Small, a memory expert at University of California Los Angeles, has developed two assessment tools*, an objective test and a subjective questionnaire, which will help you assess your present memory functioning. We have provided you with both memory tests in the TOOLS section.
*Source: Small, G. 2003. The Memory Bible: An innovative strategy for keeping your brain young. NY: Hyperion.
Once you have completed Dr. Small's memory tests, take a moment to find out how your scores translate into a memory skills training program.
||Review basic memory skills and then move quickly to advanced skills.|
||Focus on basic memory skills training. Reassess your scores after the basic training is complete. If there's no improvement, consult an expert.|
||Focus on stress reduction before basic memory skills training.|
Factors influencing objective memory score:
Factors influencing subjective memory score:
By taking the above tests, you now know your baseline memory performance scores. You will want to revisit these scores throughout your memory training program to assess your ongoing improvement. On the continuums below, mark your baseline score with an X.
When you understand how your memory works, reviewing new information regularly makes a whole lot of sense. Memory is an active process involving thinking about the information, encoding the information and rehearsing the information. This happens in 3 phases.
Working memory or the immediate sensory image (e.g. a picture).
This phase fades in seconds unless you pay attention to certain features or transform (encode) the information into words.
Short-term memory or the temporary storage.
This phase is small in capacity (3-10 items) and short in duration (10-30 seconds) unless information is repeated verbally.
This phase is the relatively permanent, large capacity storage which holds our past. "Memorized" information is stored here, and this phase is what most people think of as their "memory".
This phase involves getting information out of your long-term storage and using it.
Why is it that sometimes when you are trying to remember someone's name or solving a problem, you simply can't and then in the middle of the night you suddenly remember? The knowledge is accessible now because you are no longer "thinking" and have moved to unconscious levels of thought. Since the unconscious mind is much more powerful than the conscious, it's important to understand how to tap into these levels of thought. To help you understand this process, consider these 5 stages or levels:
||Bridge to Unconscious
|1. Think Stage →
||2. Emote Stage →
||3. Look/Search stage (retrieve)
4. Create stage
5. Know stage
Table 1: Stages of Information Processing
1. Think - what you do consciously, e.g., analyze, compare, ask yourself questions. Information is not accessible till the Know stage.
2. Emote - To get to the Know stage more quickly, use your emotions. Your emotions are a bridge between your conscious (Stage 1) and unconscious mind (Stages 3-5). Emotions are your "gut" feelings and are a deeper stage of your mind than Stage 1. Once your emotions are involved, you will automatically move to the Look/Search stage.
3. Look/Search - Signalled by your emotions, your mind starts to search for information stored in your memory. Try using the analogy of a filing cabinet (see diagram in the TOOL below) to represent everything you have seen, heard, thought is stored in files. When your mind is in Look/Search mode, imagine your unconscious mind "rolodexing" rapidly through all your files. Note that your mind doesn't always need to go through Stage 3, but can go directly to Stage 5.
4. Create - In the case of problem-solving, your mind must go through the Create stage before moving to the Know stage, as the necessary ‘files' don't yet exist and a new ‘file' needs to be created. To do this your mind goes through the existing files, taking bits of useful information and recombining files into something new. Usually this takes time and conscious effort. However, often when you stop "thinking" about the problem and let the unconscious take over, the solution appears, seemingly effortlessly. When you are creating new files, you are creating new neuro-pathways in the brain, which reinforces your memory. When you create something, you ‘know' it, i.e. you've arrived at Stage 5! Therefore...THE MORE YOU CREATE, THE BETTER YOUR MEMORY GETS. So, when studying and learning try to create your own examples, questions, and visuals and you will find that your memory improves easily.
Source: Trudeau, K. 1997. Mega Memory: How to release your superpower memory in 30 minutes or less a day. NY: HarperCollins.