This archived article was written by: Emily Manley
Student success workshops are held each Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in the Alumni room located in the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center. The workshop held Nov. 7th focused on memory techniques that can help students cut their study time in half. Shanny Wilson, director of academic advising, began the workshop by reading a list of 20 items to the students in attendance. Then students were then asked to write all 20 of the items down. Not a single person got 100%. In fact, most only could remember about half of the items in the proper order.
Wilson then left the room and invited the students to create their own new list of 20 items. When Wilson returned she was read the list of items one time. Without hesitation she repeated the entire list back to the students in the correct order. She then continued to explain to the students how certain memory methods can be very a beneficial tool when studying for an exam.
The method that Wilson used to memorize the list of items so quickly is known as the peg method. A master list of 20 items is memorized and then any new list can be attached to the existing master list (like hanging something on a peg). The master list is easily memorized because each item is closely associated to the numbers 1-20. For example the first five items in the list are:
1-a telephone pole (because it looks like the number one)
2- shoes (because shoes come in pairs of two)
3- a triangle (because there are three sides)
4- a square (because there are four sides)
5- a hand (because there are five fingers)
It doesn’t really matter what the items in the master list are, so long as you can remember them and associate them with the numbers to which they are assigned. By memorizing this one master list you can easily link any new list, such as vocabulary words, bones for an anatomy test, minerals for geology, important dates and events for history, or anything else. Here is an example of how the technique can be used to memorize a list of 5 random objects.
1- Flag. Visualize a giant flag hanging from a telephone pole.
2- Ant. Visualize a million ants crawling into your shoes
3- Key. Visualize a triangle shaped key opening a triangle shaped lock.
4- Garden hose. Visualize watering a square plant with a square shaped hose.
5- Camera. Visualize a hand with tiny cameras on the tips of all five fingers.
The method is simple enough; the key to making these memories last through to an exam is visualization. As you visualize linking your new list to the master list, make sure you make the images memorable. Wilson told students at the workshop to make images, ridiculous, out of proportion, exaggerated and distorted. When studying, keep in mind that it is easier to remember something if you use substitution, action, violence or pain in your visualization.
Some specific visualization techniques that Wilson taught at the workshop were the exchange method, dwarf/giant method, overkill method, motion picture method and distortion method.
An example of exchange method would be if you are trying to link the idea of a candy cane to number one (which is assigned telephone pole) exchange the telephone pole for a candy cane in your mind. Imagine a row of bright candy canes in place of telephone poles.
An example of dwarf/giant method: if you are memorizing the word soda and you’re trying to link it with number two (shoes) imagine two gigantic soda bottles inside your favorite shoe store. Or imagine two teeny tiny soda bottles inside your favorite pair of shoes.
An example of overkill method: the word you need to remember is orange, and you are linking it to number three (triangle) visualize a huge triangular bowl overflowing with hundreds of oranges.
An example of motion picture method: if the word you are trying to remember is bacteria and you are linking it to number 4 (square) imagine the story of a bacteria man who gets cursed by a wizard and turns into a square bacteria. He can no longer move from one surface to another with ease. Instead he is stuck in one place and cannot get anyone else sick. It sounds very silly to think up such corny and outrageous stories, but the stranger the story is, the more likely you will be to remember it.
An example of distortion method: The word to remember is Albert Einstein and you are linking it to number five (hand) imagine a hand with Einstein’s face morphed into the middle of the palm. This distorted image is so strange that it will be easy to remember.
If you want to learn more about this method, do research online and you will be met with a wealth of information on this peg system, as well as many other memorization techniques. If you want to learn more ways to become a more successful student, be sure to attend student success workshops each Thursday in the JLSC Student Center Alumni Room.