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How memory works?

  • 3m guru
  • Dec 20, 2020
  • 0 comment(s)


Why do lessons fade out of your childs' memory like mist on a summer day, when she can give an hour long discourse at will; depicting every scene from her favourite Sunday movie?

Memory power has remained a perpetual headache for parents. Many solutions, activities and programs have evolved to address this problem. Many of them scratch around the surface of how memory works.

There is a timeless truth about memory. Memory goes where Attention goes. Memory and attention are like twin stars circling around each other in their mutual gravity. In a sense we can state that memory is an extension of attention.

Imagine you are in the woods  with a  basket, collecting flowers. The flowers in the woods come in different sizes & shapes but only in one color. They are all white. All except one. That one flower thats in striking red color grabs all your attention. You look closely at the flower. You feel its texture . You smell its fragrance. And then you drop it inside the basket along with the others.

The most different events are the most easiest to recollect because they grab your attention:

If you are given the task of searching out one particular flower from the basket, which one will be the most simplest task? The easiest one to locate will be the red flower. Right? Its common sense. From the basket of your mind the most distinctive events are the most easiest to draw out into your consciousness.

An event stays in the memory for long if the experience is multi sensory:

You walk in the street a week later and there is this scent filling your senses. It feels familiar and your mind is drawn back to the woods. Its the scent of the red flower. You look around and catch them. A basket filled with the red ones by the side of a flower shop . You can call this fragrance out from a thousand others. Thats because when something grabs our attention, we tend to indulge in it with our complete sensory apparatus like seeing, feeling, smelling, tasting & hearing. Once you got drawn to the red flower, you couldn't help but feel its texture, smell its scent and gasp in its visual glory. These different formats of sensory input acts as sensory cues, that helps recollect it easily. The more sensory channels you involve in experiencing an event, the more indexed it becomes before being stored in your mind. It is like painting the event with different colours that makes it unique

More the emotions more the memory:

Also, an experience that evokes emotions, both positive or negative are easily remembered. Experiences that involve strong positive emotions like love, victory and joy or negative emotions like fear, horror etc. stay near the surface of consciousness for long.

You will never forget the horror of parting with your parents the first time you entered school. That will remain among some of your early childhood memories for a long time.

So what does all this mean to you and your child?

You are flooded with thousands of events every day. Only a few of them garner your attention. You skimp on most of the others. Though all of these experiences are stored in your unconscious, only those that enjoyed your complete attention get thoroughly indexed  and are brought to the surface of consciousness easily. Higher attention leads to multisensory experiences. The higher the sensory involvement, the easier it jumps to the surface when you try to fetch it. Finally, emotional events make us more involved and hence are more memorable.

Thats why stories or movies are more enduring than lectures and textbooks. Stories feed young minds with distinct experiences and take them on an emotional ride. Also, they are garnished with a potpourri of sensory inputs. Hence, if the curriculum's delivery medium offer students a rainbow of experiences rather than dull and boring explanations; and could be made multisensory and emotional by including stories & visuals that they could relate to their life's experiences, knowledge aquisition could be a more enjoyable process

 It will also stay connected to their concious realm for a long time.




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