33 - Diving Deeper into Memory

دوره: Coursera – Learning How to Learn / درس 33

Coursera – Learning How to Learn

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33 - Diving Deeper into Memory

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In this video and the next, we’re going to

deepen our understanding of memory.

As you’re probably beginning to

understand, memory is only part

of learning and developing expertise but

it’s often an important part.

It may surprise you to learn that we have

outstanding visual and

spacial memory systems that can help form

part of our long-term memory.

Here’s what I mean.

If you were asked to look around a house

you never visited before, you’d soon have

a sense

of the general furniture layout and where

the rooms

were, color scheme, the pharmaceuticals in

the bathroom cupboard.

In just a few minutes, your mind would

acquire and retain thousands of new pieces

of information.

Even weeks later, you’d still hold far

more in your mind than

if you’d spent the same amount of time

staring at a blank wall.

Your mind is built to retain this kind of

general information about a place.

You can greatly enhance your ability to

remember if

you tap into these naturally super-sized,

visual, spacial memorization abilities.

Our ancestors never needed a vast memory

for names or numbers

but they did need a memory for how to get

back home

from the three day deer hunt, or for the

location of those

plump blueberries on the rocky slopes to

the South of the camp.

These evolutionary needs helped lock in a


“where things are” and “how they look” memory


To begin tapping into your visual memory

system try making a

very memorable visual image representing

one key item you want to remember.

For example, here’s an image you could use

to remember Newton’s second law.

F is equal to ma.

This is a fundamental relationship

relating force to mass and acceleration.

And it only took humans, oh, a couple of

hundred thousand years to figure out.

The letter f in the formula could stand

for flying, m

could stand for mule, and a, well that’s

up to you.

Part of the reason an image is so

important to memory

is that images connect directly to your

right brain’s visual spacial centers.

The image helps you encapsulate a

seemingly humdrum and hard to remember

concept by tapping into visual areas with

enhanced memory abilities.

The more neural hooks you can build by

evoking the senses, the easier

it will be for you to recall the concept

and what it means.

Beyond merely seeing the mule, you can

smell the mule,

you can feel the same windy pressure the

mule is feeling.

[SOUND] You can even, hear the wind

whistling past.

The funnier and more evocative the images,

the better.

Focusing your attention brings something


your temporary working memory, but for


something to move from working memory to

long term memory two things should happen.

The idea should be memorable.

There’s a gigantic flying mule braying f

is equal to ma on my couch.

And it must be repeated.

Otherwise remember your tiny metabolic

vampires, they can suck away

the neural pattern related to that memory

before it can strengthen and solidify.

Repetition’s important.

Even when you make something memorable,

repetition helps

get that memorable item firmly lodged into

long-term memory.

Remember to repeat not a bunch of times

in one day but sporadically over several


Index cards can often be helpful.

Writing and saying what you’re trying to

learn seems to enhance retention.

For example, if you’re trying to learn

concepts in physics you

might take an index card and write the

greek letter rho.

That’s a common abbreviation for density.

You’d write it on one side and you’d write

the remaining information on the other.

Handwriting helps you to more deeply

encode, that is

convert into neural memory structures what

you are trying to learn.

While you’re writing out the kilograms per


meter you might imagine a shadowy kilogram

just feel

that mass lurking in an oversize piece of


that happens to be one meter on each side.

The more you can turn what you’re trying

to remember

into something memorable, the easier it

will be to recall.

You’ll want to say the word and its


aloud to start setting auditory hooks to

the material.

Next, just look at the side of the card

with the Greek letter rho on

it, and see whether you can remember

what’s on the other side of the card.

If you can’t, flip it over and remind

yourself what you’re supposed to know.

If you can remember, put the card away.

Now, do something else.

Perhaps prepare another card and test

yourself on it.

Once you have several cards together, try

running through them all

and even mixing them around to see if you

can remember them.

This helps interleave your learning.

Don’t be surprised if you struggle a bit.

Once you’ve given your cards a good try,

put them away.

Wait and take them out again, maybe before

you go to sleep.

Remember that sleep is when your

mind repeats patterns and pieces together


Briefly repeat what you want to remember

over several days.

Perhaps for a few minutes each morning or

each evening.

Gradually extend the time between the


as the material firms itself into your


By increasing your spacing as you become

more certain

of mastery, you’ll lock the material more

firmly into place.

Great flash card systems like Anki have

build in

algorithms that repeat in scale ranging

from days to months.

Interestingly, one of the best ways to

remember people’s names, is to simply try


retrieve the people’s names from memory at

increasing time intervals, after first

learning the name.

I’m Barbara Oakley.

Thanks for learning, about learning.


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