Learn­ing to be­come a mem­ory mas­ter

Wuhan Univer­sity club of­fers stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to train their brains

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By LIU KUN and ZHOU LIHUA in Wuhan

Liu Dawei never ex­pected that one day he would be­come a mas­ter re­mem­berer.

When he was in pri­mary school, he was good at math but poor at Chi­nese and English — sub­jects that re­quire stu­dents to re­cite long lists of words in or­der to achieve good scores in their ex­ams.

He blamed his aca­demic short­com­ings on his ha­tred of mem­o­riz­ing things.

“I hated recit­ing English words and an­cient Chi­nese po­ems. I couldn’t even get the whole 26-let­ter English al­pha­bet in the right or­der when I was in the eighth grade,” he said.

His teach­ers told him that he was hard­work­ing and self­mo­ti­vated, but lacked a tal­ent for study.

When Liu chose a ma­jor at col­lege, all he wanted to do was pick some­thing that did not re­quire him to mem­o­rize things.

He strug­gled to find a suit­able course at first, but was even­tu­ally en­rolled in the in­sti­tute of wa­ter con­ser­vancy and hy­dro­elec­tric power at Wuhan Univer­sity, one of the top uni­ver­si­ties in China.

In his sopho­more and ju­nior years, two stu­dents at the univer­sity were awarded the ti­tle “mem­ory mas­ter” — one, Wang Feng, went on to win the World Mem­ory Cham­pi­onships in 2010.

Wang had re­ceived train­ing at Wuhan Univer­sity’s mem­ory club in 2009. Liu de­cided to join the club, too.

It was then that he, for the first time, re­al­ized that you can im­prove your mem­ory through dili­gence and prac­tice.

“I was told that only 5 per­cent of a per­son’s abil­ity to mem­o­rize things is in­her­ited,

Around China

while the rest is ac­quired through train­ing,” Liu said. “There are skills that help peo­ple im­prove their abil­ity to mem­o­rize — one se­cret is to fully tap the po­ten­tial of the right brain.”

In gen­eral, the right hemi­sphere of a hu­man’s brain is in charge of spa­tial abil­i­ties, face recog­ni­tion and pro­cess­ing mu­sic, as well as be­ing widely as­so­ci­ated with cre­ativ­ity.

The left hemi­sphere, by con­trast, is the side most of­ten as­so­ci­ated with logic, math­e­mat­i­cal com­pu­ta­tion and mem­ory re­trieval.

Within a week of join­ing the mem­ory club, Liu had learned how to re­mem­ber the first 100 fig­ures of pi and af­ter one month’s train­ing, he could mem­o­rize 200 numbers within 5 min­utes and the or­der of a deck of play­ing cards within 2 min­utes.

“The train­ing is hard — only three out of a team of seven de­cided to stay for the full month­long train­ing,” he said.

“But if we can trans­late un­fa­mil­iar ab­stract things into el­e­ments that we are fa­mil­iar with and also are easy for us to de­scribe, the locked door of mem­ory opens up to us.”

When he used the skills he had ac­quired to prepare for his English tests, he found he could mem­o­rize 1,000 words a day. With­out much dif­fi­culty, he was en­rolled into the grad­u­ate school of Wuhan Univer­sity. He later recorded his meth­ods in a book to help others.

In grad­u­ate school, Liu served as deputy pres­i­dent of the univer­sity’s mem­ory club, dur­ing which time he im­proved the train­ing meth­ods and five more stu­dents won awards in the World Mem­ory Cham­pi­onships.

He has also estab­lished an ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tute to teach more peo­ple about the se­crets of im­prov­ing mem­ory, with a view to­ward of­fer­ing on­line train­ing cour­ses in the future.

How­ever, Zhang Zhangran, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at the univer­sity, warned that such train­ing cour­ses can only help peo­ple to im­prove their abil­ity to mem­o­rize things for a short amount of time.

“One’s study­ing abil­ity can­not de­pend on that. It needs to be ac­quired through the process of solv­ing prob­lems,” Zhang said.

Con­tact the writ­ers at liukun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Mas­ter re­mem­berer Liu Dawei at Wuhan Univer­sity in Hubei prov­ince.

Liu Dawei shares his skills with mem­bers of the univer­sity’s mem­ory club.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.