Q: Why do I have such a poor memory?
A: The truth is that most people have excellent memories - but only for evolutionarily important things. Your ancestors needed to know the location of food and fresh water, as well as whether that approaching face was friend or foe. So our memory for images (such as the sight of a fruit tree) or faces are excellent. Unfortunately, our ancestors never needed to remember a name or telephone number. So our brains developed the capability to remember images rather than numbers, and faces rather than names. So your "poor" memory is probably for things like numbers and names, which our brain is simply not developed for.
Q: What can I do about my memory for names and numbers?
A: Repetition will help drill memories into your head, but memory systems are a faster and more effective solution.
Q: What are memory systems?
A: Techniques that leverage the way your brain works, like using a jack to lift your car. Memory systems translate difficult to remember items (like numbers or lists of objects) into a format that is easier for your brain to store.
Q: How do they do that?
A: Memory systems link hard to remember items (like numbers) to easy to remember items (like images).
Q: I'm over 50, is there any hope for improving my memory?
A: Absolutely. While our natural powers of memory do decline somewhat as we age, the ability to learn and apply memory systems remains constant. There are even advantages to maturity. The older you are the more events and associations there are stored in your head. These can be used with memory systems to create very strong memories.
Q: My child is having trouble in school – how can memory systems help?
A: Much of learning in school requires memorization. Learning new vocabulary for a foreign language or learning historical events, for example, both require memorization. By using memory systems, a child can spend less time memorizing and more time learning.
Q: I get introduced to people at parties and then promptly forget their names – what can I do?
A: First, don't psych yourself out. Walking in the door with the attitude that you will never remember any of the names will only make your memory worse. Try these simple steps:
1. Slow down an introduction.
2. Listen carefully to the name. If you aren't sure your heard it correctly, don't hesitate to ask them to repeat it.
3. Repeat the name a few times as you talk with them.
4. Try to associate an image with the name.
Q: Why can I always remember the face and not the name?
A: When the human brain was evolving millions of years ago, people needed to know if the person approaching them was a friend or foe. There were no names. They weren't necessary. The brain evolved to recognize faces.
Q: I want to compete, how do I do that?
A: The next major competition in the United States is the US Memory Championships on March 11th, 2006 in New York City.
Q: I run a small company, how can memory systems help my employees?
Many myths still linger about how memory works and about memory loss. Most people believe that our ability to remember peaks at about age 20 and then deteriorates from there. In reality, the brain's capacity for building stronger and stronger connections continues through our forties, and memory-strengthening exercises can help anyone, at any age.
More myths: Some people are born with photographic memories...you have to be smart to have a good memory...the only way to remember something is to keep repeating it in your head...some people are born with a poor memory.
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