Mental images are an aid to memory and have been shown to work best because of the effort that has been put in to making those images in the first place. As an example, the human brain is capable of storing a vast number of different images at one time, so if asked to recall the items in your living room, it can remember the images in different areas. The more bizarre or odd the image we attach to something, the easier it is thought to be to remember it. There have been a number of experiments used to evidence this.
Spoors et al (2007) give the example of a method of learning the French word ‘poubelle’, meaning ‘bin’ in English, by making a picture of a bell being used as a bin and which has an unpleasant smell. Another example is that carried out by Michael Raugh and Richard Atkinson (1975) where two groups of students were asked to learn sixty Spanish words – one group were taught a key word technique, in which they attached a mental image to each word, and this group scored far higher in a test to recall the word than the group who were not taught the technique.
There are various memory strategies which are based on using mental imagery. One example of this is an ancient mnemonic device called the Method of Loci, in which you learn something by walking through a sequence of events in your mind, usually using familiar places to assist your recall. It can be used to memorise a list of items by associating each item with a location as you walk through it in your mind. Secondly, I will look at the way in which we can aid our memory by forming concepts.
This is where we group certain items or events into categories, where they have shared properties. By looking at information we can often see relationships and make connections so that we will form concepts, often without realising we have done so. It can be a more confusing area to understand as how we see the world is very individual. As stated in Spoors et al (2007), children will often overgeneralise the concept that as a dog has fur, four legs and a tail, then a cat has the same characteristics so must also be a dog.
We can use concepts to improve our memory by sorting list items into categories. An example of this would be a shopping list, where we can group fruit, bakery items, meat, cleaning products and so on. This helps to improve our memory as it has been shown that it is easier to remember things in categories than in a random order list as we can link one thing to another in our memory. An experiment was carried out by Weston Bousfield (1953) in which he asked participants to learn a list of sixty words that could be split into four categories.
The words were in random order, but the results showed that participants mostly remembered them in groups in the way they had categorised them. Research by George Mandler (1967) shows that even without trying, we can often memorise information, purely by organising it. He demonstrated this with an experiment where he gave two groups 100 cards with words printed on them and asked them to sort the cards into groups. One group were told to memorise the words as they sorted them, the other just to sort them.
When asked afterwards to write down all the words they could recall, both groups were equal, showing that the act of organisation had assisted their memory skills. Finally, I will look at schemas. A schema is a mental structure which has developed from our own experience. We use it to organise and simplify our knowledge of the world around us. The way I think of them is that they are a hierarchical structure built up from our own knowledge database of a certain object or event. We use them to classify things and they affect how we interpret things and how we act.
Although schemas pertain to individuals, they can also be cultural, where people have shared similar experiences. Schemas assist as a memory aid by acting as an organising framework to store information, helping us to recall things more easily by giving cues which prompt our memory. We are using our mind as a large filing cabinet to assist us to locate information about certain situations, objects or people. In an experiment carried out by John Bransford and Marcia Johnson (1972), they set out to show how schemas aid our understanding of information as well as helping us to remember it.
They read out a passage to a number of participants, only half of whom were given a title for the passage. Those who were not given the title found it difficult to understand what the passage was about, as well as trying to remember the details of it afterwards. Those who were given the title however, understood it easily, thereby showing that having the title gave them a schema which helped them understand and organise the information provided, and therefore made it easier to remember the details.
In conclusion, I have looked at how we think and shown that by organising our thoughts we can improve our memory. Mental imagery allows us to use pictures, concepts allow us to categorise information, and by developing schemas we can compartmentalise relevant information about specific things. (Word count: 990) References: Spoors, P. , Dyer, E. W. and Finlay, L. (2011) Starting With Psychology, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Task 2 Write no more than 150 words in total for this task. What did you find easiest and what did you find most difficult about doing this assignment?
Why was this? I found it quite easy to plan what I wanted to include in my essay generally, but it was more difficult to narrow it down to the most appropriate extracts from the book to give the best examples. I also enjoyed trying to think of my own examples, but did not find this easy. What could you do to make the difficult area easier in the future? I think it should get easier with practice as I work through the course. I need to ensure I have plenty of time to tackle this as if I get distracted it’s harder to go back to where I was. (Word count: 94)