We recall things through memory association. Every piece of data in our brain is associated to other pieces of data in a way. For instance, if you have given the word “banana”, what comes into your mind? Maybe something like:
Banana: yellow, elongated, sweet, monkey, fruit
However, it is very unlikely that we might see “banana” and think of “coconut” unless of course if you recall something humorous in which an elephant looks like a banana. If you are asked what is the third letter of the alphabet, chances are you will not know that C = 3, but you could easily stream into A, B, C, and then you can say C. You have used association to get the answer because you already know that A is the first letter of the alphabet, and then you have processed the series of letters in the sequence until you get the right letter.
If there is no possible association of certain things, it will be very difficult to recall the information you need. As an example, suppose you need to recall that the next bus would take off at 4 PM, there is nothing that you can associate the bus that would suggest the number 4. Therefore, the information can be easily forgotten.
If our memory works by association, then we can employ active association between two bits of data. As an example, for the bus that you need to catch at 4 PM, you can picture your bus in your mind and notice that it has 4 wheels. Four wheels, 4 PM. Now you have an association. You now have more chance to remember the time after it has instilled in your memory.
There are times when memory association comes very easily. As an example, if you are introduced to Mr. Brown who lives on a house near the end of the street with a brown roof, the idea of Mr. Brown under the brown roof is pretty easy. And what if you need to try recalling your classroom number for a Sociology class, and it just turns out that it’s the same as your locker number. Another easy association!
When pieces of data are not associated in any way, we should be more creative in relating things to each other. However, it is not too hard. Most people can learn rhymes or acronyms that can help you remember things such as:
- I before E except after C. When it sounds like A as in neighbor and weigh
- ROY G BIV for recalling the colors of the rainbow in proper order
- N-E-W-S (compass directions)
Rhymes and acronyms work because they form an easy-to-remember method of relation between the two things. The rule of thumb is to be creative and imaginative. You do not have to be a poet every time you want to recall something. Just think of an image in your mind that associates to a piece of information.
It could be something humorous or funny so that it would be more memorable. As an example, if you need to recall that the basketball court is in Raisin Street. You can imagine a basketball player baking raisin cookies! Just be creative and rest assured that you will have a sharper memory.