How To Improve Your Memory

By: Lee Dobbins

Do you forget peoples names as soon as you are introduced to them? Did you ever go to the store only to forget what you went there to buy? These are actually common occurrences that happen to people every day and there are methods you can use to help improve your memory in these areas.

When you are introduced to someone, this event is stored in immediate memory only long enough for the event to happen. Immediate memories are held in various modality-specific regions of the brain - immediate visual memory is most likely held in the visual parts of the brain, and immediate auditory memory in the auditory parts of the brain.

Now if you were paying attention to the introduction the relationships between what you see, what you hear and your awareness is brought together into working memory which resides in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. When the event goes from your immediate memory into your working memory some of the details are lost. For example, you might not remember what was going on in the background or what color shoes the person was wearing. This distracting information is dumped on purpose and is critical for efficient storage.

If you paid attention during the introduction, the relationship between sight, sound, and awareness is brought together into working memory, somewhere in the prefrontal lobe of the brain. When the event moves from immediate memory to working memory, certain features will be lost. You probably won't remember background conversations from the party, and you may not remember the color of the Mr. Byrd's shoes. The loss of distracting information is an important feature of human memory, and is critical for efficient storage and recollection of experiences.

At this point, you can use reinforcement to try to help yourself remember the persons name. Rehearsing the event by saying the name yourself or by relating the name to something else (like the same name as your sister or your aunt etc) cause the memory to move from working memory into your long-term memory. This is called consolidation and during this process more distracting information is lost.

Now several days later you might not remember the color of the persons shirt but you should remember his name, what he looks like and who introduced you. If you were distracted during the introduction you might not remember the name. It is important to repeat the persons name and try to make some sort of association or mnemonic so that this information makes it through the consolidation process.

You can use a similar method of relationships and reinforcement to remember what you wanted to pick up at the grocery store. Lets say you need to get toothpaste, deodorant and bananas. Instead of just trying to memorize these 3 items, picture yourself getting ready for work. You brush your teeth, put on deodorant and eat a banana on the way out. Play this back in your head like a little mini film. Then when you are in the grocery store, replay the film!

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Lee Dobbins writes for Better Self where you can learn more about self help and self improvement. Visit for more on improving your memory.

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