'THINK BACKWARDS! IT OFTEN HELPS'
How many strings of form letters have at lest one repeated letter?
Show that with 23 randomly-selected people, it is more than 50 % probability that there are at least two with the some birthday.
Ways of Enriching Our Memory
Remembering things is indispensable to people because we cannot even live meaningful lives without memory. However, we are sometimes forced to memorize things, and would like to be able to cram and easily remember them. For this problem, this essay will provide some ways to make it easier to memorize things by explaining what long-term memory is and how our memory works.
Long-term memory (LTM) is first explained by the modal model of memory. Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin (1968) proposed the modal model of memory to illustrate how our memory works. LTM can hold a tremendous amount of information all about our experiences and the knowledge that we have ever gone though and learned. In contrast, another part of the model, called ‘short-term memory (STM)’ can only hold 5-7 items for about 15-30 seconds. Compared with STM, LTM can store a huge amount of information due to its difference in function.
LTM works in two ways; as an archive (declarative memory) and as background information (implicit memory). On one hand, we can refer to LTM as an archive and get information from the past whenever we need it. Declarative memory makes it possible for us to provide information about events we have experienced and facts we have learned. For example, when we try to remember what we did last year, or a definition of a technical term in an exam, we are using declarative memory. On the other hand, implicit memory serves as background information for understanding what is going on in the present and influences our behavior. For instance, we constantly access implicit memory to understand the meaning of words while we are talking with others. Another important example is that we can ride a bike without even thinking about how we are physically manipulating it. Essentially, an important difference between these two types of memory is whether we are aware of using it or not.
We often refer to declarative memory when we think about memory because only declarative memory is consciously used. Besides, implicit memory is not very important when we think about how to enrich our memory since we do not usually refer to implicit memory as ‘memory’ or even do not notice using it. Therefore, this essay will refer declarative memory when it discusses effective ways to store memory as follows.
Numerous pieces of research have revealed three effective ways of remembering or getting information into LTM. Firstly, rehearsal is one of them, although merely repeating an item, called maintenance rehearsal, is not an effective way. Maintenance rehearsal does not transfer information into LTM but only maintains it. Put another way, this mechanism involves STM but not LTM.
In contrast, another kind of rehearsal called elaborative rehearsal is a very effective way of storing information. Elaborative rehearsal is interpreting an item and connecting it with something we already know. Fergus Craik and Robert Lockhart (1972) proposed the levels-of-processing theory and explained that memory depends on how deeply information is encoded. According to their research, participants who were asked to remember a list of words by visualizing the words’ meaning remembered more words than those who were asked to remember that by counting the number of vowels in each word. Thus, they concluded that deep processing such as visualizing related images helps to get information into LTM better than shallow processing.
Nevertheless, some researchers oppose the level-of-processing theory because it is vague about what deep processing and shallow processing is. In other words, how deep the processing is may depend on the results.
Secondly, the relationship between how information is encoded and how it is retrieved later influences memory performance. Donald Morris and coworkers (1977) conducted an experiment and showed this phenomenon called transfer-appropriate processing. When participants encoded items associated with the meanings, they could remember more words when they were asked the items based on the meanings than when they were asked based on rhyming, and vice-versa. Therefore, we can improve storing information into LTM by adjusting how to encode information if we know how we will use the information later.
Thirdly, the generation effect enhances our memory by generating material rather than passively receiving it. An experiment shows that the ‘generate group’ which fills in a blank with a word that is related to the first one, such as ‘king-cr__’, remembers 28 percent more word pairs than the ‘read group’ in which participants only read these pairs. Another effective way is by organizing information. People can retain more information when it is organized than random. What is more, organizing information by oneself can improve memory even more since sorting items by oneself involves both the generation effect and the organizing effect. This shows why we can hold more information by actively summarizing rather than just reading a textbook.
All of these four ways enhance caching information into LTM strongly as written above, however, memorization is only one of two important processes. Another process is called retrieving, which gets information from LTM, and we can improve our memory by helping this process.
Retrieving is a crucial process for remembering things. This is because, if retrieving does not occur, we cannot use information stored in LTM no matter how good and how much information we put into LTM. For instance, when we remember that we have to buy something yet cannot remember what exactly it is at a grocery store, we are experiencing a failure in retrieving memory.
Using retrieval cues boosts retrieving information from LTM, which is closely related to transfer-appropriate processing. To show this effect, Endel Tulving and Zena Pearlstone (1966) conducted an experiment in which two groups of participants were asked to remember as many words in a list as they could. On one hand, one group called the ‘cued recall group’ were given some cues such as ‘bird’ for pigeon and ‘furniture’ for chair when they were asked to recall the words from the list. On the other hand, another group called the ‘free recall group’ did not get any cues. This experiment clearly showed that retrieval cues help in remembering items by providing a result shows that the ‘cued recall group’ could remember 35 percent more than the ‘free recall group’. In this experiment, Thlving and Pearstone used words for cues, but retrieval cues can be anything such as a situation and a state in as far as they help us to retrieve information that we need.
D. R. Godden and Alan Baddeley (1975) proposed ‘encoding specificity’ that states we gain information with its context. They did an experiment called the ‘diving experiment’ and showed that participants can answer more words correctly underwater if they study words underwater and less words on land, and vice versa. This result means that context or situation, such as being underwater while we put information into LTM, can in itself be a retrieval cue.
Another possible cue is our internal state such as mood and feelings, of which the principle is referred to as ‘state-dependent learning’. According to Eric Eich and Janet Metcalfe research (1989), participants who were listening to cheerful music while studying did better on memory tests with happy music playing in the background than with sad music. Much in the same way, participants who were listening to ‘melancholic’ music had good results on the memory tests with sad music in the background. All of these pieces of evidence support the idea that our state while we are studying works as a retrieval cue. Thus, we should study under the similar condition in which we take examinations.
In essence, we can enrich our memory effectively from two aspects by improving encoding information into LTM and by boosting its retrieval of information from LTM. To remember items efficiently, we should elaborate on the items, generate new material, organize, and try to match learning and testing conditions, when we are studying. As for when we use it, it is helpful to use retrieving cues such as a word, situation, or internal state. Through these processes, we will find memorizing material much easier.
Craik, F. I. M, & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Level of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11, 671-684
Morris C. D., Bransford, J .D., & Franks, J. J. (1977). Levels of processing versus transfer appropriate processing. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16, 519-533
Tulving, E., & Pearlstone, Z. (1966). Availability versus accessibility of infrormation in memory for words. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal behavior, 5, 381-391.
Goldden, D. R., & bzaddeley, A. D. (1975). Context-dependent memory in two natural environments: On land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66, 325-331.
Eich, E., & Metcalfe, J. (1989)/ Mood dependent memory for internal vs. external events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 16, 443-726.