What Makes Things Memorable?

Forsaken Fotos

Forsaken Fotos

Sometimes you want to create a memorable experience. Other times you want to share information in a way that sticks.

In her book, Healthy Brain, Happy Life, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki shares four strategies you can use. Each tip is based on what we know about how memories form in the brain. She recommends we:

Link it: To remember something new, link or associate it with something you know well. If you can, associate it to as many things as you can. That way, you’ll be able to retrieve the memory in a number of different ways. Try this the next time you need to remember to buy something at the store – associate that item with people you’re with, things you’re doing or wearing, or other things you need to buy.

Get emotional about it: Memories with emotional resonance last longer and are stronger than other memories. Think about the times when you were most sad or angry or happy. I bet you’ve got memories that go with those very strong emotions. Turns out that’s because “the amygdala, a structure critical for the processing of emotion, has the ability to form very long-lasting memories with help from the hippocampus. The amygdala signals to the hippocampus: Remember this moment!”

Repeat it: Think about a family member or friend you care about who you don’t see that much in person anymore. What’s the first couple of memories that comes to mind? You’re able to recall those memories because they’re the ones you think about again and again. The more often you bring a memory back, the stronger it becomes. Repetition strengthens the connections that underlie our memories. We remember what we pay (or paid) attention to.

Add novelty to it: Remember that meteor shower you saw or that person with the purple hair passing by? The reason those memories come to mind so easily is because they’re novel or unexpected. Our brains are wired to focus attention on what’s new.

These are great tips for presenters and teachers. If you’d like to learn more about Wendy’s research on movement and the brain, please listen to my recent interview with her on the Curious Minds podcast. If you like what you hear, please rate and review it. I value your feedback.

Thanks for your support!