Psychologists say it’s not about how good or bad our memory is; it’s about how we use it! Are you prone to losing your keys? The first step is to be conscious about where you put them. And Ph.D. researcher Scott Fraundorf suggests practical methods to remembering where you put your keys: put them in the same place everyday! Or, put them on a new lanyard so they stand out.
He also says there are strategies you can use when trying to remember things in general: you should form a mental image of the memory or connect it to something you already know. That’s right, pneumonic devices come in handy!
For example, Fraundorf said when he goes into the grocery store and has to remember the bar code for produce, (he’s a self-checkout guy) his strategy is to connect the number to a year. If the number 83 is a part of the bar code sequence, Fraundorf will remember that as the year he was born. Connecting the image or item to something he knows gives him a place to start from when it’s time to retrieve that memory. Fraundorf says people who are known for having a good memory aren’t that way on purpose; they have a strategy that works for them!
Also, psych graduate researcher Jason Finley says that there are numerous other external resources at our disposal: “calendars, automatic e-mails to remind you of appointments, shopping lists, address books, weekly pill boxes/organizers, etc.”
And you can offload the burden of memory onto your environment, Finley says. That means, if you want to remember to take your umbrella before heading off, place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up before you leave!
In all reality, the experts say we don’t give our memory enough credit. “We don’t realize that every day, we remember tons and tons of information without incident (e.g., who we are, how to tie shoes, the meanings of 1,000s of words, the identity of most people we interact with, how to navigate our surroundings, the content of books and music and videos …,” Finley said.
And Fraundorf says when we get older our memories can be just as functional. In fact, Fraundorf says older people stereotype their memories. “If you’re worried about your memory, that can make your memory worse,” Fraundorf said. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy!
Anyway, here is a recap of practical things you can do to remember better:
- Be conscious about where you put things
- Form a visual image; connect the memory to something you know
- Use external memory aids
- Use a strategy that works for you
- Don’t worry about your memory
Remember, your memory is best when you use it effectively!