Well, you might also be low-key stressing about how to make all this information stick in your memory for the long-term. Don’t worry, this is a natural fear that many nursing students encounter. Well, what if I told you that the solution is actually way more simple than you imagined? In this two-part article, I’ll let you in on three powerful memory techniques, and if you integrate them in your study routine, you’ll find that you’ll quickly be mastering information for the long-term in order to be the best future nurse you can be. But first, we need to learn a little bit about how memory works, with a high-level overview of the foundation of the memory formation process. PART 1 The Foundation   Ok folks, we all know the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” right? Simply put, a complex idea can be expressed better with a single image than a wall of daunting text, and we’ll remember the picture better, too. So what if you took that concept and applied it to your studies? That’s where picture mnemonics come in. So, What Are Picture Mnemonics? Picture mnemonics are a visual representation of the hard-to-remember information that you're learning in nursing school, turned into fun stories with wacky characters; symbols to help trigger memories. Examples are like these below, provided by the picture mnemonic company, Picmonic, where Penicillin becomes a pencil-villain, beta-blockers become a beta-fish on blocks, haloperidol becomes a poodle with a halo. Picmonic’s learning methodology utilizes memory phenomena to ensure that you are encoding new information in the most efficient way to remember it for the long-haul.   Combatting the Forgetting Curve The point here, is to combat the forgetting curve. Yes, the forgetting curve is a real thing. In 1885 Hermann Ebbinghaus coined this term, and it basically states; a memory, no matter what it is- a fond childhood memory of a trip with your parents to the beach, or a lab value your teacher said you need to remember- it's all bound to be forgotten over time. That may sound discouraging, but it doesn’t have to be. We can combat this forgetting curve with the help of a little science and research to support a better methodology. The Memory Formation Process   Now at the base of it, we need to understand the memory formation process, which is a three-part process. Memories are encoded, stored, and then retrieved. Encoding Let’s break this down and first talk about encoding; the first step in the memory formation process. Encoding all starts with your senses, where external stimuli (visual, acoustic, tactile and semantic) are converted into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for processing. When trying to form new memories, you really want to engage as many of your senses as you can because you want them to be as strong as they can be. Based on how information is presented to us and how we sense it has a major impact on where and how well it is encoded in our brain. This then, is where a few memory phenomena come into play that you can leverage to encode more durable memories. Dual Coding Theory Dual coding theory says that we process verbal and nonverbal information through different channels in our brain. For example, if you see a picture of a circle, that is processed in a different neural pathway than when you hear the word “circle.” So to form a memory that is likely to be strong, you want to use both channels in conjunction when encoding information (look at a circle and hear the word “circle” at the same time). Multiple routes into your brain make it easier to get back out, kind of makes sense, right? Picture Superiority Effect Picture superiority effect basically states that we remember images better than we remember text. Think about the X-rays or skin disorder images you’ve seen in your textbooks versus just reading about it without pictures. You’re more apt to remember what you saw than what you just read. So if a picture isn’t included, doodle away or find a resource with images. Von Restorff Effect Mr. Von Restorff demonstrated what is more commonly known as the isolation effect; we remember weird things, odd things, things that are unique and stand out. So, for a real-life example, if you’re studying four viruses for an exam, and three of those viruses look very similar but one looks different, you’re more likely to remember that different one. In fact, the more something stands out, even if unusual or nonsensical, the better you’ll remember it. Humor Effect When our emotions run high, we tend to remember experiences better. Just think about how you can remember every little detail of that car crash, or more positively, every detail on the night of your first date to your significant other. Emotion improves memory, and the best emotion to consistently use is humor, because we remember things better when we find them funny. If the information presented to you is mundane, put a funny spin on it so it will make you laugh. Baker-Baker Paradox Above we talked about remembering things better when we can create a web of attaching associations. The Baker-Baker paradox shows us exactly that. If you were introduced to a man named John Baker at a party, chances are you would forget his name pretty quickly, you only have the face and the name tied together. But if you were introduced to John “the Baker,” you already know what a baker is, so that knowledge acts as a “memory anchor” and your brain weaves associations between the two. You might picture him in a white baker’s hat and think about the smell of bread baking. Because of these associations, you are more likely to remember the profession rather than the name. Curious if this really works? Try it out! Read More! Check out Part 2 of this article, where I show you tools for how to use these memory phenomena and store memories for the long-term! For more about Picmonic, visit our Product Directory listing.
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