The beginning of the New Year marks a fresh start, and its arrival can inspire us learn new things – conversational Russian, the guitar, or pottery – the sky’s the limit.
Or is it? Is there a limit to what we can learn and remember?
No, thank goodness, our learning capacity is arguably limitless. We do not reach a point where our memory is ‘full’ and we say that we can’t possibly hold another piece of information – unlike our appetite when contemplating a piece of cheesecake, perhaps.
That being said, we certainly don’t remember everything we’re exposed to, either. If truth be told, most of what we experience in our lives we forget within a day – the fact that yesterday you washed your red bowl and put it face-down in the back-right corner of the dish rack or changed the roll of toilet paper in the downstairs bathroom or put your left sock on before your right one when you got dressed – all of that stuff is forgotten today.
Nor would we want to waste mental energy on encoding, storing, and retrieving that kind of information. But what about the stuff we want to remember? How can we ensure that content gets in our memory?
This is called encoding, and it is the process of having information enter our memory to become part of our permanent storehouse of memories.
Here are some tips for more efficient encoding:
Retrieval is also important in memory, as this process involves the ability to use the information in storage by bringing it out as needed. Not much good to have all this information in your memory if you can’t access it, right? Especially important for successful retrieval are retrieval cues, or stimuli that lead to activation of the information stored in memory. Retrieval cues work because they’re associated with the memory.
Here are 3 ways to make retrieval cues more effective:
So if the New Year has inspired you to learn something new, apply these new tips to help you encode and retrieve that content more efficiently and enjoy!