Memory/Mnemonics

Why Learn Mnemonics?

Criticisms there are many :

Some people remember better than others. – This is false. our ability in remembering is relatively similar. Most people can remember between 2-7 items without using any memory techniques. This includes memory masters.

Mnemonics is a form of decontextualized knowledge. They are superficial, the epitome of learning without understanding. – Criticism like this shows a lack of understanding of what memory is

– Memory is the inventory by which the mind uses to create, learn, and grow. It is known as Manas in the Vedic traditions, who describe it as a big sack that contains memory. As I reported in another video, the Romans saw it as inventory, like in a warehouse.

  • Memory is Intrinsically connected to:
    • Learning – You can’t learn without memorizing and you can’t memorize without learning
      • Why learn if you can’t remember what you learned?
      • Do you think you could learn faster if you had a system for remembering that which you’ve learned?
    • Visualization – The way you should be remembering is through the visualization of images. Practicing these memory techniques has the added benefit of improving your visualization skills.
      • This art seeks to memorize through a technique of impressing ‘places’ and ‘images’ on memory.” – The Art of Memory Francis Yates
    • Creativity – I will explain this one later
    • Understanding- You can’t have understanding without being able to remember the facts that lead to the understanding
    • Languages – if you can quickly memorize the vocabulary of a new language, all you have to do is understand the grammar
      • Grammar is actually the easy part to understanding language. Indo-European languages all use similar grammar structure with tiny variations: like gender emphasis, lack of future tense, etc
    • Rhetoric and public speaking of any kind – You can’t communicate fluently without remembering the important points that you need to say to sound confident and convincing
    • Etc, etc etc
  • Essentially, you cannot improve your mind if you cannot remember

3 Types of Memory

  1. Working Memory – Very short memory that allows us to work with and process new information
    • Less about memory, more about understanding and analysis
      • ex: listening an entire sentence
    • Memory Buffers: Our brain uses several different types of buffers to work with the various types of sensory input. Meaning: words, ideas, images, audio, scenes, symbols, etc, do not all use the same pathway to get to short term memory
  2. Short Term Memory – The memory function used to store information for 15 to 30 seconds
  3. Longterm Memory – Responsible for the storage of information for an extended period of time

How Our Memory Works (Basically)

Our minds are made up of about 100 billion specialized cells called neurons that transmit nerve impulses, which are connected by synapses.

From what science knows now, which isn’t everything, the creation of memories REQUIRES connections between two neurons. When your brain sends neurotransmitter signals to two neurons at the same time, it strengthens the connection between the two neurons, which in turn creates a memory.

When the same signals are sent over and over again, the clustor of neurons and their synaptic connections becomes a neural network, making them work better because the signal gets aplified by the network.

Hippocampi (1 for each hemisphere of the brain) – Because the brain is only 2% of your total body mass but uses about 20% of the energy, the hippocampi is used to decide what’s worth remembering and erases the rest for better efficieny of the brain.

IMPORTANT: The hippocampi’s decision making process is primarily based on the existing memories that are already within the brain.

This means: The more connections there are to a piece of information, the more likely your hippocampi are to decide that it’s worth storing.

And…

The more connections we make between our memories, the less likely they are to fade away.

So…

We can utilize this by creating more connections to the information that we want to learn, forcing the mind to remember what we want to remember better.

With over 100 billion neurons and a capacity of 2.5 petabytes, you do not have the ability to overwhelm the brain with memories.

  • 2 Petabytes: All US academic research libraries

“Memory is like a spiderweb that catches new information. The more it catches, the bigger it grows. And the bigger it grows, the more it catches.” – Moonwalking With Einstein – Joshua Foer

This means that as long as you keep adding new memories, facts, and information, your brain will store it. The new information will become more connected neurons, which will make adding more information easier because there are more ‘hooks’ for the new information to ‘latch’ onto.

This is why information sometimes goes “in one ear and out the other,” the new information doesn’t have anything to attach itself to.

Facts, information, and data don’t by themselves lead to understanding, but you can’t have understanding without the facts. Remember, facts in the mind are like the chalice which can contain the mercury that is understanding.