SECOND AIDS TO MEMORY: RETENTION, RECALL AND RECOGNITION





Our discussion up to this point has centred around the phase of memory

called impression. We have described some of the conditions favorable

to impression and have seen that certain and accurate memory depends

upon adherence to them. The next phase of memory--Retention--cannot be

described in psychological terms. We know we retain facts after they

are once impressed, but as to their status in the mind we can say

nothing. If you were asked when the Declaration of Independence was

signed, you would reply instantly. When asked, however, where that fact

was five minutes ago, you could not answer. Somewhere in the recesses

of the mind, perhaps, but as to immediate awareness of it, there was

none. We may try to think of retention in terms of nerve cells and say

that at the time when the material was first impressed there was some

modification made in certain nerve cells which persisted. This trait of

nerve modifiability is one factor which accounts for greater retentive

power in some persons than in others. It must not be concluded,

however, that all good memory is due to the inheritance of this trait.

It is due partly to observance of proper conditions of impression, and

much can be done to overcome or offset innate difficulty of

modification by such observance.



We are now ready to examine the third phase of memory--Recall. This is

the stage at which material that has been impressed and retained is

recalled to serve the purpose for which it was memorized. Recall is

thus the goal of memory, and all the devices so far discussed have it

for their object. Can we facilitate recall by any other means than by

faithful and intelligent impressions? For answer let us examine the

state of mind at time of recall.



We find that it is a unique mental state. It differs from impression in

being a period of more active search for facts in the mind accompanied

by expression, instead of a concentration upon the external impression.

It is also usually accompanied by motor expressions, either talking or

writing. Since recall is a unique mental state, you ought to prepare

for it by means of a rehearsal. When you are memorizing anything to be

recalled, make part of your memorizing a rehearsal of it, if possible,

under same conditions as final recall. In memorizing from a book, first

make impression, then close the book and practise recall. When

memorizing a selection to be given in a public speaking class,

intersperse the periods of impression with periods of recall. This is

especially necessary in preparation for public speaking, for facing an

audience gives rise to a vastly different psychic attitude from that of

impression. The sight of an audience may be embarrassing or exciting.

Furthermore, unforeseen distractions may arise. Accordingly, create

those conditions as nearly as possible in your preparation. Imagine

yourself facing the audience. Practise aloud so that you will become

accustomed to the sound of your own voice. The importance of the

practice of recall as a part of the memory process can hardly be

overestimated. One psychologist has advised that in memorizing

significant material more than half the time should be spent in

practising recall.



There still remains a fourth phase of memory--Recognition. Whenever a

remembered fact is recalled, it is accompanied by a characteristic

feeling which we call the feeling of recognition. It has been described

as a feeling of familiarity, a glow of warmth, a sense of ownership, a

feeling of intimacy. As you walk down the street of a great city you

pass hundreds of faces, all of them strange. Suddenly in the crowd you

catch sight of some one you know and are instantly suffused with a glow

of feeling that is markedly different from your feeling toward the

others. That glow represents the feeling of recognition. It is always

present during recall and may be used in great advantage in studying.

It derives its virtue for our purpose from the fact that it is a

feeling, and at the time of feeling the bodily activities in general

are affected. Changes occur in heart beat, breathing; various glandular

secretions are affected, the digestive organs respond. In this general

quickening of bodily activity we have reason to believe that the

nervous system partakes, and things become impressed more readily. Thus

the feeling of recognition that accompanies recall is responsible for

one of the benefits of reviews. At such a time material once memorized

becomes tinged with a feelingful color different from that which

accompanied it when new. Review, then, not merely to produce additional

impressions, but also to take advantage of the feeling of recognition.



We have now discussed memory in its four phases and have seen clearly

that it operates not in a blind, chaotic manner, but according to law.

Certain conditions are required and when they are met memory is good.

After providing proper conditions for memory, then, trust your memory.

An attitude of confidence is very necessary. If, when you are

memorizing, you continually tremble for fear that you will not recall

at the desired moment, the fixedness of the impression will be greatly

hindered. Therefore, after utilizing all your knowledge about the

conditions of memorizing, rest content and trust to the laws of Nature.

They will not fail you.



By this time you have seen that memory is not a mysterious mental

faculty with which some people are generously endowed, and of which

others are deprived. All people of normal intelligence can remember and

can improve their ability if they desire. The improvement does not take

the form that some people expect, however. No magic wand can transform

you into a good memorizes You must work the transformation yourself.

Furthermore, it is not an instantaneous process to be accomplished

overnight. It will come about only after you have built up a set of

habits, according to our conception of study as a process of habit

formation.



A final word of caution should be added. Some people think of memory as

a separate division or compartment of the mind which can be controlled

and improved by exercising it alone. Such a conception is fallacious.

Improvement in memory will involve improvement in other mental

abilities, and you will find that as you improve your ability to

remember, you will develop at the same time better powers to

concentrate attention, to image, to associate facts and to reason.



READING AND EXERCISE



Reading: See readings for chapter VI.



Exercise I. Compare the mental conditions of impression with those of

recall.





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