Memory In Context Essay, Research Paper
Dr. Terry Dubetz
Styles and Ways 1301L
October 30, 2000
Memory in Context
When we were little, many of us played the card game memory, where the participants had to flip cards over and then try to match a pair by remembering the location of the matching cards. Memorizing the correct locations of the cards was the main focus for the time span of the game, but those positions were instantly forgotten as soon as the game ended. In my own experience, this has been the case with many tests I have taken down through the years. I studied the information for the purpose of passing the test and as soon as the test was over, I almost immediately erased the information from my memory. While I did pass many tests like that, later, when I could have actually used the information that I had memorized, I couldn?t recall any of it because the situation was different and I had taught myself to remember the information only in the context of the test. Because of this, all that time I spent memorizing the information was a waste.
A far better approach than the one I used is to mentally change the context of things that will trigger our memories. In other words, personalize the information so that it becomes pertinent to our own selves. By doing this, we no longer have to memorize things in the traditional sense of the word. When things become pertinent, their priority level in our minds becomes higher. The more important the information is, the more we will want to learn about it in detail. The key word in that last sentence is want. In some ways this relates to the previous chapter in Mindful Learning. It had to do with delayed gratification. The idea in that chapter was to make the actual process of attaining a goal fun, rather than just waiting until everything we had to do was out of the way to do something enjoyable. Now this is how the previous chapter and the one we are discussing now are related. By making the subject matter we are trying to learn more important in our minds and thereby making learning something we want to do, we are making the actual process of learning less tedious. Rather than just studying for rote memorization, we are actually learning the material so that it can be later accessed by our memories and used in whatever situations we may encounter.
To illustrate how this method of applied memorization can be used, I will use a large American History test that I had to take some time ago, as an example. For this test, we had to memorize most of the major wars and the dates that went with them. The way I went about memorizing the information was simply to repeatedly go over the list until when I saw a date, I could remember the war that went with it. While I did all right on the exam, today, I can recall none of the information I was supposed to learn. What I could have done to memorize the information better was to imagine that I was actually living back then. If I had, then those battles would become important to me as I possibly might have had to fight in more than a few of them. In that context, I would be remembering where I had gone and when I had been at those localities. I?m positive that if I had used that little trick, I would remember far more than I do now.
So in conclusion, I am in total agreement with Ms. Langer that rote memory can be a hazard to our learning new things. By personalizing the information, we can look at it through a whole new light and in doing so, learn the information in a much more usable fashion.
Langer, Ellen J. The Power of Mindful Learning. Reading: Perseus, 1997.
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