TEXAS A&M (US)—Just like the 3Rs are the cornerstone of early learning, the 4Rs—register, relate, rehearse, and recall—are the foundation for a good memory.
“When you register, you are trying to log in the information in the first place,” says Bill Klemm, professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University.
“For example, if you meet a bunch of people at one time, you should slow down the introductions so you actually get the names down. And don’t try to take in too many at once—your brain can only deal easily with four or five names at a time.”
Relating creates a mental image association for each item or name you want to remember, Klemm says.
“When meeting several people, you might use a prominent physical feature to make a mental picture that reflects their name,” he says. “If you meet someone named Bill, and he seems to have a big nose to you, you can relate it to a bird bill, or maybe Steve’s big muscles could remind you of a stevedore.”
It’s important to rehearse—to repeat the item or name in your memory,” Klemm says, “and to do it right then. Temporary memory is like writing on a blackboard—it’s easily erased and replaced with new information.”
The last step in the memory process, he says, is to recall, or self-test yourself after the initial learning. “You need to force yourself to recall,” he notes, “and with names, you can join in on the conversation and use the person’s name again and again.
Klemm says the four major obstacles to memory are information overload, multi-tasking, stress, and lack of sleep.
Memory can be improved, but needs a daily workout and motivation, he says. “Typically, poor students are poor students because they don’t know how to memorize efficiently. Memory is a skill that can be learned.
“After 45 years as a college professor, I’ve concluded that the single most important thing about success as a student is not a high IQ but how much a student remembers from the instruction,” he says.
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