Want to boost your memory? Try this simple method

This is by far the best way to remember stuff…

Some people use mnemonics or songs to remember things, but there is another more effective trick. Simply drawing a picture of what you want to remember will help you recall twice as much information, compared with just writing the words.

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Drawing creates a more cohesive memory trace that integrates at least four components: elaboration, visual imagery, motor action and pictorial representation.

What this means is, when we change a word into a drawing – a visual representation – we also create physical characteristics of the item (this is known as elaboration.) Then, we have to create a visual image of the thing we need to remember whilst at the same time engage in the hand movements needed for drawing which also stimulate and create new neural connections.

Jeffrey Wammes, PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, pitted drawing against a number of other encoding strategies, and… drawing always yeilded the best results.

Wammes’ team gave a group of student volunteers a list of simple, easy to draw words like ‘pear’ or ‘balloon’. They were then given 40 seconds to either draw the words or write them repeatedly. Once completed, they were given a filler task of classifying musical tones in order to facilitate the retention process.

The team then gave the students 60 seconds to recall as many words as possible. This is when they discovered the ‘significant recall advantage’ of drawing over of writing – the particiapants were able to recall as much as twice as many drawn items than written words.

In variations of the experiment where students drew the words repeatedly, or added visual details to the written letters, such as shading or other doodles, the results remained the same. In other words, the memory of drawn words was superior to all other alternatives.

More important, drawing led to better permanent memory than simply listing physical characteristics. The quality of the drawings made no difference to particiapnts ability to recall information, suggesting that everyone could benefit from this memory strategy, regardless of their artistic talent, or lack threof. Even artistically incompetent volunteers gained a huge advantage in later memory retention, even when they had just four seconds to draw their picture.

I’ve tried this and it works.

Copyright Andrew Newton 2016. All rights reserved.