How Can the Way We Organise Our Thinking by Using Mental Images, Concepts and Schemes Help Us Improve Our Memory

In today??™s society we are constantly reminded of the importance of our memory and the necessity to look after it. Scientists are continually investigating how to improve our memory by researching that most complex part of our bodies ??“ the brain. The complex, interlinking parts of the brain is a network, demonstrates that a problem in one area of the brain can cause a problem to our memory. Therefore, one of the crucial questions to scientists has always been; ???How can we preserve our memory, prevent memory loss or improve it???Although the research is carried out and psychologists are investigating memory on an ongoing basis, there are already a number of mnemonics or memory strategies scientifically proven to improve our memory based on using mental images, schemes and concepts.The question asks for the way in which thinking can be organised using mental images, concepts and schemes. The next sections will discuss each of these.Mental Image Although Semantic thought – our inner conversations and thinking in words- is the one that we use the most, Iconic thought- thinking in mental images and pictures is vital to help us with our memory.A mental image can represent information by recalling distinctive items, colourful or unusual images that, in connection with a verbal or written text, will help us to fix the information in our memory. Adding an additional image will help the brain to store the information and recall it more effectively. One of the experiments that support the significance in using mental images was developed in 1975 by Michael Raugh and Richard Atkinson, using the key word technique when learning a foreign language. The foreign word in is given to the subject, who is required to imagine an English word that would sound similar, so that later that image would help them recall the foreign word from their memory.
(Raugh M, Richard Atkinson, (1975) cited in Spoors, 2010)
Many of us develop our own mnemonics, or clues, that help us to remember specific information. Usually we associate our information by using visual images, sentences or words. For example a child learning the guitar will be encouraged to remember the sequence and the names of the guitar strings by remembering a mnemonic such as, ???Even after dinner good boys eat.???In 500BC in Ancient Greece, , the poet Simodes developed a memory device called method of loci. This method was effective in remembering words and speech; associating each word with a certain landmark or sequence of locations that are already known to the individual (Spoors 2010).Concepts The use of Concepts is a grouping of the mental images that we hold in our memory. It helps us categorise the information that we want to remember and, by so doing, our brain is able to recall the information in these specific categories. For example, one can remember the following words – chair, sofa, lamp, daffodil, rose, milk, bread – if one groups them and remembers that the objects are pieces of furniture, names of flowers and items on a shopping list.Experiments have also proved that giving category headings as cues helped the participants in an experiment to recall more information then those without the category heading; in this way proving that the information in our brain is stored in an organised way, with each cue recalling previously stored information.SchemasSchema is a mental framework – a personal collection of memories and experiences. This may include our knowledge of certain situations, objects, other people, ourselves etc. It is. It can be used consciously or sub consciously when repeating everyday procedures or in more complex processes such as learning to play a musical instrument. So, it is possible to use a schema to help to remember the steps in a procedure which has been performed successfully on one occasion or to build up a series of actions which lead to more complex structures. For example, if the point of playing music is to be able to express feelings through sound, the means of doing this is technique. Technique in playing a musical instrument is built upon a number of smaller techniques. In order to learn to play a brass instrument, the main techniques are breath control, embouchure (lip muscle) development, articulation. Each of these techniques has to be used in coordination with each other in order to develop the whole technique. In this example, there are too many techniques on which the mind has to concentrate on simultaneously, therefore, muscle memory can help each one to stay in place and so the whole schema of technique ultimately supports itself.
ConclusionWe often, refer to ourselves as visual learners or verbal learners; however the verbal learners possibly underestimate the visual influence on their memory. As described above, without colours, unusual images, associations, clues and cues, it would be significantly harder to recall things in our memory.Concepts are there to help us to classify our information and simple things such as giving articles headings, drawing attention to bullet points, separating the paragraphs. All these will help us to memorize better where as without schemas our lives would be difficult to imagine. Most of our actions are built on our previous experiences. For example, for those of us who have never skied before it would be a new process of events in order to get to the ski slopes. However, once we have experienced it, we will be more confident about the equipment required, which ski pass to buy and which slopes to choose for our skiing abilities. Memory is essential if our life experiences are to be useful for future actions. The way in which we organise those experiences and our thinking are personal and often more than one of the methods described above are used, each helping our memory in a different way.Word count: 974References:Spoors, P., Dyer, E.W. and Finlay, L. (2010) Starting with Psychology, Milton Keynes, The Open University