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Mentalrobics™

You exercise your body to stay physically in shape, so why shouldn't you exercise your brain to stay mentally fit? With these daily exercises you will learn how to flex your mind, improve your creativity and boost your memory. As with any exercise, repetition is necessary for you to see improvement, so pick your favorite exercises from our daily suggestions and repeat them as desired. Try to do some mentalrobics every single day!

Earlier, we talked about the Link
and Story systems for remembering lists of items. Our example list was pretty silly (clown, banana, giraffe, and moon) so you may be asking yourself what practical uses you can apply these techniques to in your daily life. Good question!

These systems can be used in nearly any situation where you need to remember a list. Two popular examples are shopping lists or errands. Waiters can use it to remember the orders for their tables. Students can use it to learn vocabulary words or facts for a quiz. You could remember the state capitals or names of the presidents.

Sometimes the items you want to remember may be difficult to visualize or work into a story. In these situations, you can use a substitute word that sounds similar or has a relationship to the item that you are trying to remember. The idea is to pick a word that is easy to visualize. For example, if you are trying to memorize the U.S. state capitals, you might use "Tapioca" as a replacement word for Topeka, the capital of Kansas. Or if you are trying to remember the errand of picking up your laundry, you might visualize a shirt with a stain on it.

You can even use these systems to remember a speech or lecture. Just pick a concrete word for each section of the speech and link them all together. Now you'll be able to recall the entire speech without notes.

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The Story System is similar to the Link System and will help you remember items in order. To use this system, you need to create a little story using each item on your list.

For example, take the list: clown, banana, giraffe, and moon. Your story might be, "A clown slipped on a banana and startled a giraffe. The giraffe jumped over the moon and ran away." It's easier to remember this short story than it is to remember the list of words without any associations.

Compared to the Link System, this system may make it easier to recall the information later, but it is less effective for longer lists of items because it's difficult to work subsequent items into a meaningful story. However, the story system works better with abstract words that are hard to visualize by themselves.

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The Link System (sometimes called the Chain System) is a very useful technique for learning a series of things in order. To use this system, you must create a visual image of adjacent items on your list. The visualization should have the two objects interacting in some memorable way.

For example, take this list: clown, banana, giraffe, and moon. You might start by visualizing a clown slipping on a banana, then visualize a giraffe with a banana for a neck, and then finish with an image of a giraffe with a neck so long that it can nibble on the moon. This chain of visualizations will help you remember each subsequent item. In this example, the only thing you need to remember is the first word "clown" and the rest will be brought to mind from the visualizations that you created.

This works because it's much easier to remember an image than it is to remember an abstract word. The more vivid your visualizations, the better you will be at remembering them.

If you are worried about forgetting the first word of the chain, you can always link the last word back to the first word (visualize a clown standing on the moon). Now all you need to do is remember any item on the list and you'll be able to get the rest from the circular chain.

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The keyword-mnemonic technique is most frequently used to learn foreign word vocabulary, though it can be adapted to other purposes. This technique achieves its effectiveness by encoding information both visually and verbally. This gives you twice the number of aids for aided recall to work.

The first step is to think of an English keyword that is similar to the foreign word. For example, the French word for "fish" is "poisson" so your keyword might be "poison" because it is similar to the French word. Try to pick a noun for the keyword, because it will make the next step easier.

The second step is to visualize an association between your English keyword and the English translation of the foreign word. In this case, we would visualize an association between "fish" and "poison." Maybe you could visualize a toxic pond with all the fish floating on the surface, or maybe you would picture someone eating some fish and then dropping over dead. The more dramatic you make your visualizion, the more effective it will be as a memory tool.

Now, if you need to remember the French word for "fish," you will remember the visual scene and will recall the word "poison." This will lead you to the correct word "poisson."

This technique can also work in reverse - going from the foreign word to the English translation.

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Many students misuse the technique of highlighting important parts of their textbook. One common problem is reading the text just to find and highlight facts, instead of reading the text to understand the material. When the student returns to study the highlighted sections, they won't know the context of the facts and learning will be impaired. Another bad habit is highlighting too much information or incorrect information, which will make remembering the material more difficult.

The proper way to highlight a text is to read a section all the way through without highlighting anything. Then think about the important points and summarize the section in your head. Now reread the section and highlight the most important facts. You will only be able to pick out the key phrases after you have truly understood the material.

Another benefit of this method is the use of repetition which will help you remember the important parts of the material. Proper highlighting will give you a good way to review the text later, which will be very helpful if you are using the SQ3R study method.

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