Memory tricks: Linking it in


I tend to have an appalling memory for performing tasks, unaided by beeping alarms – I get lost in the moment and it just goes out of my head. A trick I found many years ago works surprisingly well, though, when I actually remember to use it (of course, that’s the real trick).

Memory recall in people (or at least me!) seems to work a bit like it does in a computer. If you don’t have anything to link that memory region to something, it’s probably lost forever. In computers, you keep track of addresses of things in memory (we call them ‘pointers’, numbers that point to memory). If you don’t keep a pointer, there’s no way to access that region in memory, because you don’t have its address.

This is more-or-less what I do when I don’t put special effort into remembering to perform a task. Usually, we just acknowledge that there’s something that needs doing, at some vague time in the future. This is like storing something in memory, but throwing away the pointer. What’s the point in that? (What are you looking at me like that for? Oh, point…)

So, keep the pointer: link the memory in to something. When you have things to do, assign a time to perform them, and picture what you will be doing around that time. For example, I’ve been having trouble remembering to buy these Daniel Kitson tickets. I pictured myself walking through the door to the study, and then remembering. Sure enough, in the morning, I walked in, and suddenly it was in my mind. I only hope we manage to get tickets that aren’t marked “*RESTRICTED VIEW* INFORM PATRON”…

Next is using magnetic pulses to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation on working memory…

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