Ruth Spencer offer five techniques to trigger that memory
Ruth Spencer offers five techniques to trigger that memory
Memory: it’s not just the only song you know from Cats. Our memories are who we are, the sum total of our life experiences. Why then is it so hard to remember stuff? Fortunately, there are ways to combat a memory like a ... that thing with holes, you know, you drain water with it. Here are five things science suggests you try.
The Method of Loci
Loci is Latin for locations, but you won’t need to remember that. Basically you imagine a place — your house, for example — and memorise the layout. Mentally place the things you want to remember inside the house — your grocery list might include a broccoli sofa in the lounge, a coffee coffee table, a ham lamp — so that when you need to recall them you walk yourself back through the house, noticing the distinct smell of warm ham. This method is considered the gold standard of memory tricks, even though it gives you twice as many things to remember and attracts mice.
Things you can remember: the words to the
Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. Things you can’t remember: the periodic table of elements. Solution: reword the world’s easiest rap with the things you want to remember, keeping the rhythm and emphasis. “Now HYdrogen helium LITHium beryllium ... ” Suddenly you know your elements and have a new party trick to impress your friends (results may vary). Your life will be flip-turned upside down.
The Face is Familiar
Names are one of the most easily forgotten things and one of the most socially awkward to forget. Fortunately there is a technique to help: be a creeper. When you’re introduced, repeat the person’s name immediately, and ask if it has an unusual spelling. When they say, no, it’s just spelled D-A-V-E like usual, repeat “Dave, mmm, right, Dave” to yourself, musingly. Take ownership of the name by introducing Dave to someone else, then use his name often as you speak to him, which is totally normal and not at all uncomfortable for everyone, Dave. At least you introduced Dave to someone else, so he has someone else to talk to about how creepy you are.
Boringly, the best thing for a sharp memory might be healthy living. Getting enough sleep, regular exercise and consuming the raw nut proteins and omega-3s of a Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve memory. The hard part is remembering all of this at 3am, mid-Netflix binge, with your hand so covered in Twisties dust you look part-Simpson.
If your memories are actually the problem, scientists are getting closer to being able to erase the ones that bother you. They’re already doing it in mice: targeting fear neurons to wipe out specific memories without affecting others, although how they know the mice haven’t suddenly forgotten the lyrics to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air is not stated. This research will either save us all from our traumas or breed a race of fearless mice that will kill us all to eat our ham lamps. Then we’ll wish we’d all paid more attention to Cats.