Mnemonics I – Basic Visualized Associations

You’ve probably heard the term mnemonics, which refers generally to methods for enhancing learning or memory.  It comes from the Greek mnēmōn meaning mindful.  Familiar examples include acronyms such as the BRAT diet for upset stomach, or OFNR (which looks kind of like “oftener”) for the Non-Violent Communication rubric Bread LoavesObservation, Feeling, Need, Request.  There are whole books devoted to mnemonics, and people who specialize in these memory tricks are called mnemonists.

I’ll be discussing some of these tricks in various posts, but I’ll start with one of my favorites which is kind of like a mental alarm that you can use anywhere.  One way that memories are given salience is through the detection of something abnormal.  For example, you are more likely to remember something strange-looking  than something ordinary.  This principal can be exploited to form a new memory cue.

Let’s say you want to remember to take the bread out of the freezer when you get home.  You don’t have anything to write on, or any other easy way to make a physical reminder. What you can do is think of something that you will definitely see when you get home, such as the front door.  Now, since it’s the bread you are trying to remember, imagine that when you walk up to your house, in place of the front door you see a huge loaf of bread with a door handle on it!  Imagine reaching out to the door handle and swinging the loaf of bread open to enter the house.

The more vivid and sensory you can make the memory, the more likely it is to work. Picture the loaf-door in your mind, imagine the smell of the bread as you open the loaf-door, think of the loafy sound it would make, etc.  When you get home there’s a pretty good chance that as you get to the door those imagined memories will pop up and remind you to take the bread out of the freezer. To improve the odds even more, make up several of those memories for different things that you will see you when you get home.   After the front door, you could imagine a piece of furniture being the loaf, or picture your dog as a loaf of bread wagging it’s crusty tail!

Try it–I bet you’ll find lots of uses for this one, and the more you practice, the better it gets.  In fact, see if when you get to your front door, you think of bread, just from having read this blog today!

[Photo Credit: Benediktv – License]

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Physical Reminders I

I’ve alluded to these in two previous posts, and the car keys are an example.  The most obvious physical reminder is a note, PT Corelike a sticky with something written on it.  I like physical reminders because they’re concrete, and often they’re convenient and easy to arrange.  For instance, I buy paper towels in bulk.  Because our storage space in the living space of the house is limited, I store the the bulk packages under our house.  I bring them up a few at a time to put in a cupboard near the kitchen.  When we’re getting close to the end of the upstairs supply I’ll take the empty core from the last roll we used and place it somewhere I’m bound to see it, to remind me to bring up more rolls from under the house.

[Photo Credit: Author]

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Forgetting Through Doorways

2015-03-22 17.47.42It was empirically demonstrated several years ago that walking through a doorway induces
forgetting.  It even happens if you go through a virtual doorway on a computer screen!  Here’s one of the best accounts of the research that I’ve seen:  Walking Through A Doorway Makes You Forget.

How to make use of this?  If you’re leaving a room with a purpose, do something that will help you hang on to it.  Keep your mind engaged with the intent as you move from one place to another, or if possible, take a physical reminder with you–a note, or some other concrete object that will cue you when you get to your destination.  If you do get someplace and can’t remember what it was, going back to the room/location where you had the thought originally can jog your memory.

[Photo Credit: Author]

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Primer on iPhone Alarms and Reminders

One of the nice things about the iPhone is that it comes with several built-in apps that serve a variety of reminding functions.  However it’s good to know what the differences in function are since they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

iPhone timer

  • Timer
    • Simplest interface (especially if you use Siri – just say “set timer for 10 minutes” and it will start counting)
    • Very limited on features, including that you have to remember what you set the timer for!  But good for parking meters, timing food, etc.
  • Alarms
    • Pros:
      • Simple interface – easy to set quickly
      • Alarms can be labeled to tell you what they’re reminding you to do
      • Alarms sound even if phone is muted with the ring/silent switch
        • Use this if you want to get an auditory alarm no matter what, e.g., if you have to wake up at a certain time, or if you want to make sure you’re alerted and the sound won’t be a problem.
    • Cons
      • Alarms will sound even if phone is muted (bad for meetings, theater, etc.)
      • The Siri default setting is AM, so if you create a new alarm with Siri and you want it to be PM, you much specify that or edit it to PM once it’s created.
  • Reminders
    • Pros:
      • Checklist style
      • Can be set to show on lock screen until actively dismissed (set as an “Alerts” style alert in Notifications)
      • Can be categorized and prioritized
      • Can be set for time or place notifications
      • Time notifications can be set to repeat at desired intervals (e.g, daily, weekly, etc)
      • Easy to set with Siri, eg., “Remind me at 8pm to do the laundry,” or “Remind me when I get home to take my vitamins.”
    • Cons:
      • Multiple features/menus make setting potentially more involved (compared, for example, to Alarms)
      • Alarms do not sound if phone is muted (though they vibrate once)
  • Calendar
    • Pros:
      • Placed on Calendar (for easy reference if you refer to Calendar a lot or have coordinated Calendars, etc.)
      • Repeatable
      • Can set up to 2 alerts at different intervals up to and including the event time
    • Cons:
      • Alarms do not sound if phone is muted but vibrate and otherwise function like reminder alerts.

That’s my rundown.  If there’s something important I missed, you can add a comment, or let me know on the Google Group (see About) and I’ll add it!

[Photo credit: Author]

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Did I Shampoo or Not?

Shampoo MohawkEver forget whether you just shampooed in the shower while you were distracted by pondering the meaning of life?  Here’s a simple solution:  rub your hair.  If it squeaks, it’s clean!  For short hair rubbing seems to work best.  If your hair is longer, you can pinch a small gathering and slide your fingers along the length of it.

[Photo: Ted Johnson – License]

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Using Car Keys as Reminders

Car keysIt’s good to remember where your car keys are:

  • Have an unambiguous, designated spot for car keys.  Often a place near the exit door is good, like a hook, or a specific container on a table that’s only used for the keys.

But they can also be used as a reminder themselves:

  • If you want to be sure to take something with you, put your car keys with that item and you won’t be able to leave without it!  Especially useful if you’re at someone else’s place.

[Photo credit: Author]

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