Memory – Recall – Improving Recall

Friday, August 7th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

The Transcendence Institute has already talked a great deal about memory. In particular, we have discussed ways to better encode the things you want to remember in order to aid in getting them into memory in the first place, and then in the second lap we talked about how to keep those things in your memory for as long as possible, essentially by refreshing those memories as often, emotionally, and vividly as possible.

This lap around we’re considering memory recall. You’ll use the mind-manipulating skills you have learned in previous months to understand how memory recall works, how to aid it, and how to practice it’s improvement.

How Recollection Works

We have noted that human memory doesn’t work like computer memory. You don’t just demand the contents of your memory from a certain block of your brain and have it returned to your mind intact. Instead, human memory is an associative memory. You recall things not by giving the address of that thing to a memory postmaster and having him fetch what lives there, but instead by association. By being reminded of a thing through those ideas you have associated it with, or by it’s features, it’s colour, shape, texture.

This explains a salient point about memory recall: that recognition is easier than recollection. That fact is why people sigh with relief when they find out some test they must take is a multiple choice test. Just hearing an answer reminds you what the answer is. Why you can tell that you know someone, yet still not know their name. Why you can struggle for a long time looking for an answer until someone tells you and you exclaim “I knew it“, despite the evidence that you couldn’t bring it to mind.

It’s clear then, that having something stored in your memory and being able to retrieve it are different things. Doing all the things we mentioned in the first two laps around the spiral will help recall. Ensuring the thing to be remembered is well encoded, that it’s vivid and striking and emotionally evocative, will help bring things to mind by ensuring your memory is stored properly in the first place. Refreshing your memories often, wondering around your Loki map regularly, taking time to vividly recall your experiences will also aid no end.

Given a memory which is already encoded, though, one which has been repeated and re-recalled as often as it has with no chance to change that retrospectively, what can you do to aid recall?

Tips on improving recall

The key, as you may have guessed, is to push as many reminders at your mind as you can. To try and get your brain-state to closely approximate the brain-state it was in at the time the memory was first formed, or at least subsequently re-formed.

You may have had the experience of not remembering your PIN if you’ve ever tried to recall it in unusual circumstances, but know that if you were stood in front of a cash-point it always slips into mind. You may have tried to recall which song is next in some album and been unable to do so yet as soon as the previous track ends you start humming the first few bars of the next before it starts whether you want to or not.

This is because once your brain configuration more closely resembles the configuration it had at the time the memory was stored it will automatically push the rest of the brain into remembering, recalling.

Stories appear to be a natural way to do this. It’s why the question “Where did you last have it?” is useful when searching for some item now lost. If you can describe the story leading to an items loss, the story will often bring to mind the things involved in that story, pushing your neural networks closer to that recall epiphany.

If suffering from a tip-of-the tongue blockage when searching for a word or a name it can even pay to simply roll through the alphabet: “Does it begin with an A? How about a B?” turning this name-guessing recall problem into a multiple-choice recognition problem.

It’s not particularly helpful to struggle to remember. Your memories do not respond well to pressure, or to demands. Instead, just think about the related things which you do remember. Try and let your mind wonder, while staying broadly on-topic, searching for the key, the one jot of information which will remind you of the sought data.

In this way you’ll learn to enjoy searching for memories since it stops being a difficult struggle and starts being a walk in the park, a stroll through memory lane.

Next week we’ll consider the opposite of recall: forgetting. Then, since this lap is dedicated to dream-work, we’ll discuss improving recollection of dreams. Finally, at the end of the month, we’ll present a guided lucid-dream designed to help you improve both your dream-recall, and your ability to mine the depths of the memories you have stored.