Five Keys to Better Memory

Matthew Barrett, founder of Brain Trainers, is the speaker for our November 18 WorkSource Professional Network meeting.  Barrett has a Masters degree in Psychology and calls himself a “personal trainer for the brain.”  His lessons take cutting-edge cognitive neuroscience and turn the science into entertaining and accessible presentations for his audience.  We spent some time together recently talking about what “brain training” is and why it matters to jobseekers.

We focused first on what Brain Training is, and how it can help.  Barrett says that there are five ways you can move information from your short-term “desktop” to your long-term “file cabinet.”

  • Attach emotional Meaning to the information.  This is why we almost always remember “firsts” like kisses, but why we forget to pick up bread at the store.
  • Organize the information.  Singing, setting to music and dancing or other rhythmic movement are ancient ways people have remembered important information.  It’s why we still use the same song to learn and recite the “A,B,C’s” 175 years  after Boston-based music publisher Charles Bradlee copyrighted it in 1835. Acronyms are part of the same process of remembering a series of concepts or names.
  • Visualize something that helps you remember. (This is part of the “Ellie, Ellie, she’s so smelly” concept.) If you can imagine a picture or link that helps you connect a name, you will recall it more easily. “I met Mr. Robbins in the spring when the robins appeared.” “Mrs. Macintosh is the apple of her father’s eye.”
  • Elaborate the concept to give yourself more ways to remember it.  Elaboration consists of converting the word or name into meaningful words that sound similar and then creating pictures to help you remember the object.  If the name of the online encyclopedia “Wikipedia” always eludes you, try this: “Wiki” reminds you of the term “Wiccans” or witches. Think of a group of Wiccans gathered around an encyclopedia and commit that image to memory. 
  • The fifth method is Repetition.  Finding ways to repeat the name or fact will help move it from your “desktop” to storage.  Repetition acts as a holding pattern while links are found to retain the information permanently.  Repeating a name brings it back to the “desktop” for a while so you don’t lose it after that critical 12 – 20 second period that your brain can retain information in short-term memory.

It’s no surprise that the five memory techniques form an acronym: MOVER.  Matthew Barrett believes in using what works.

Next: Barriers to memory, and what to do about them.

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