Memory is not what you think it is.
Whereas we often use the word “memory” as if it’s a singular, globular entity, memory is more than one thing. It’s a collection a multiple entities that deal with different kinds of information, even …
Information About Things That Haven’t Happened Yet!
First we have, prospective memory. Prospective memory is that wonderful device that helps you remember tasks you need to complete and events you’re booked to attend in the future.
The only problem is …
… prospective memory isn’t necessarily all that good.
For example, how many times have you forgotten an appointment, to take a pill, to wash the shampoo from your hair?
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These slips happen, but even more interesting is how prospective memory tends to fail us most in areas that it should be the most reliable.
I’m talking now about routinized tasks.
For example, most of us do our own shopping. And yet, why is it that we so often forget items we need and know we need?
Even pilots have this problem. Without checklists, even the most routine – and absolutely necessary operations for flight safety – would be forgotten as easily as you can forget eggs or milk.
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For prospective memory to work, you also need retrospective memory.
Retrospective memory helps you recall information that you learned in the past. Your home address, directions to a restaurant or where you put your medication all rely on your ability to recall where things are located in space. Without this kind memory, even if you do remember to take your pills, you won’t have a clue where they are.
Prospective memory and retrospective memory work together, and it’s quite easy to keep them fit. Here’s a fun exercise:
Go to a dollar store and buy an object. It could be a ball, a pack of clown stickers or hair elastics.
Next, visit a friend and ask them to let you hide the object in the back of a closet or somewhere deep beneath a bathroom sink. The more of the home you must navigate to reach the object, the better.
In other words, don’t put your object in the hallway closet directly inside the entrance. Put it down in that creepy basement bathroom where a hole in the wall exposes all those rusty pipes.
Then make an appointment to come the next day, the next week or even the next month to reclaim the object.
When you get home, replay the entire journey in your mind. See the entire path from your home to the store to the creepy basement in your friend’s home.
At the same time, see the object you placed in the home and nourish that image. Make it big, bright and colorful. Infuse it with a crazy energy, almost to the point of bursting.
To complete the exercise, keep your appointment and claim your object. Then go hide it somewhere else and repeat the exercise as often as you like.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
It’s the way you use to exercise your memory as a kid, after all.
Only back then, you called it a treasure hunt.
And Now For Another Episode Of The You Show On The Brain Channel
Having gone to the store and the secret hiding place, you now have a nice little story in your head.
Your ability to recall that story is called episodic memory. Always connected to time, episodic memory makes it possible for you to recall elements of your last vacation, going to the movies and just about any expanse of experience that features a beginning, middle and end.
Then there’s semantic memory. This kind of memory trades in general facts that aren’t bound with time (as such). Vancouver, for example, is a city in British Columbia, one of several provinces in Canada.
Of course, if you’re a historian and can rattle off the dates of when Vancouver was founded and when British Columbia became a province, then you might be blending in a touch of imaginary episodic memory,
For example, when I think of places like Vancouver becoming a city, a little flash of story enters my mind. I see stiff European dudes with quills and parchment tricking the Natives into giving up all that precious territory for a few bottles of whiskey and a stack of shiny dimes.
To take a more practical example, if you know that Vancouver is in British Columbia, Canada and Seattle is in the American state of Washington, and you’re also aware of the fact that a ferry runs between them …
… you can take the ferry and then use episodic memory to recall all the beauty you saw along the way.
But here’s the weird thing …
Episodic Memories And Semantic Memories Are Stored In Two Completely Different Parts Of Your Brain!
Do you remember that interview on the Magnetic Memory Method podcast with Dr. Gary Small?
In that interview, he told us that our memories go into different neighborhoods of the brain. In those neighborhoods are tiny little houses in which parts of memories live.
In order to simultaneously remember facts about places and episodes of time that you may have experienced, your memories have to leave their respective neighborhoods and come together in yet another part of your brain. It’s like having a family reunion where everyone comes in from different cities to eat at Recall Restaurant on the tip of your tongue. (link to tip of tongue podcast)
And last but not least, there’s a very strange kind of memory, a kind of memory that often …
Doesn’t Require Your Conscious Awareness!
We fall this mysterious form of recall “procedural memory.”
Some experts disagree whether it is a kind of memory all on its own, or a subset of semantic memory.
I don’t know about you, but the ability to ride a bike without thinking about it seems quite different than the semantic knowledge of how and why bicycles work as they do.
The same thing goes for guitar. Knowledge of where to find notes on the fretboard and how to form chords requires a different kind of memory than the procedural memory that takes over when some maestro is ripping it up on the stage.
Of course, even though procedural memory can be accessed without conscious awareness, episodic memory can intervene.
For example, your mind can wander during rehearsal or performance, breaking the flow of the song and causing you to mess up.
Likewise, bike riding on autopilot while daydreaming can cause you to sail through a stop light or crash into another cyclist.
And then these too become episodic memories. Like, for example, the time I was hit by a car crossing an intersection on my bike and how vomited into my mouth the last time I performed on stage because my joint pain had gotten so bad.
Fun Stuff All This Memory Business, Isn’t It!
It sure is.
And now that you know about these different kinds of memory, you are truly empowered. You can exercise each of these special memory types and improve them.
And if you use the Magnetic Memory Method, you can probably already see exactly how my unique approach to encoding, storing and recalling information lets you harness the power of each kind of memory you’ve just learned about.
But if you don’t know about the Magnetic Memory Method, why then now is your chance to avail yourself of my special Memory Improvement Kit and 4 FREE video series. Grab hold of the magic of these truly special memory techniques right here.
And until next time …
Keep Magnetic! 🙂