Basic Memory Training Skills

A memory technique is a coding system or a filing system for the brain.  A person’s prior knowledge and interests will influence how well they learn and recall new information.  Our memory’s filing and storage system works most effectively when the new information contains meaning for us. By mastering three basic skills – LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT – you will incorporate a foundation for a solid memory-training program. 

LOOK – Actively Observe What You Want to Learn

One of the most common barriers to effective learning is that people do not pay attention to situations in which new information is presented.  By actively looking and making a conscious effort to take in this type of information, trivial as it may seem, you can begin to train your brain to log in details. By engaging in this active observation process, we can absorb details and meaning from a new face, event, or conversation, which helps us to learn and remember it.  When we have little interest in something, it is often difficult to remember because we are not paying attention.  It is essential to slow down, just enough, to notice what is being said and whether it is important to remember.  “The true art of memory is the art of attention”

SNAP – Create Mental Snapshots of Memories

Snaps can take two forms, real or imagined. A real snap involves active observation, concentrating on what you actually see and making a conscious effort to fix the observed image into a mental snapshot.  Imagined snaps are those that you create from your own memories and fantasies, but they still become fixed in your memory as a mental snapshot. We all have real snaps in our heads that we use instinctively to help us seek and retrieve lost or hidden objects.  To help develop effective learning and recall techniques, we need to rekindle our natural creative instincts.  Bright, colourful, enhanced snapshots stick best in memory, as do those with movement, three dimensions, and detail.  The more detailed the image, the easier it will be to recall later.  The more vividly and creatively we visualize new information for ourselves, the more effectively it will stick in our minds.

CONNECT – Link Your Mental Snapshots Together

Developing techniques to connect mental snaps together is a basic element of nearly all memory techniques. CONNECT is the process of associating two mental Snaps so you can remember the connection later. To connect two snaps, simply create a brand-new snap that contains both mental images.  Several techniques can make CONNECT an extremely effective memory tool:

Techniques to Effectively Connect Mental Snapshots
Place one image on top of the other
Make one image rotate or dance around the other
Have one image crash or penetrate the other
Merge or melt the images together
Wrap one image around the other 

CONNECT is the basis of the link method, which orders items by associating the things-to-be-remembered with each other – the ideas or images become part of a chain, starting with the first item, which is associated with the second, the second with the third, and so forth.  The most effective links or associations are ones we create ourselves, particularly those stemming from our first association.

The more you practice LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT to help remember tasks, events, and lists of any type, the more familiar and natural it will become.  These three fundamental skills are the building blocks for more advanced memory training.

*For more detailed examples of LOOK, SNAP, CONNECT, refer to The Memory Bible, by Dr. Gary Small, Director of the UCLA Center on Aging