Older and Wiser

Mr. Salazar, age 73, had worked for 31 years as a petroleum engineer before retirement. He is widely known in Texas for his involvement in many diverse community development activities. Antonio is also extremely active in the Hispanic community and yet finds the time and energy to work part time teaching mathematics at a local community college. He takes great pride and pleasure in motivating his students, passing along to his students the techniques he used to learn, and keeping them advised of opportunities for advancement.

available for rapid retrieval is critical. Now that you have strategies to get the information into your brain, you need to develop a few strategies for getting the information back out in a timely manner.

At one time or another, you probably tried to reach a destination and encountered a roadblock. The availability of another route was critical to getting there. So it is with learning. Your brain stores information in distinct neural pathways. The more connections you make at the moments of learning, the more pathways are available to recover the fact when you need it. There are several techniques for doing so.

In geography class, you learned the names of the continents. You may have learned them in a pattern. You may have linked them by size. You may have linked them by hemispheres or by bodies of water. You may have memorized their positions on a globe. When asked to recite the list, you recalled them in the manner you stored them and listed their names.

Suppose that you are asked to list them in order of the number of letters in their names. Surely there is no connection in your brain for that order! You will need to use one of your other connections to recall all seven names and then process the list in a separate mental activity to arrive at the answer.

One of the best ways to create and fine-tune connections is to teach something to someone else. There is an old saying: You never really understand something until you teach it. You might want to consider using your skills and knowledge to help others learn. You get the benefits of reactivating the connections you made when you learned the material and the benefits of the new learner's view of the material. A prime example of passing along information strategies is Antonio Salazar.

Search Strategies

When a prompt for information and the connection to that information are present simultaneously, we call the phenomenon instant recall. The memory is triggered by the stimulation of the connection. Suppose that you need to recall

some information and it is not available instantly. Sometimes you try to remember something and can't. It's right on the tip of your tongue. You know you should be able to remember it, but you simply can't find the fact. You can use some retrieval strategies to locate a connection that does trigger the memory. Looking for the information you need is a skill you can master.

The following is a list of search strategies you can use to trigger that memory.

Alphabetic search

Scenario search

Association search

Recite the alphabet slowly. Perhaps the connection you are looking for is the first letter of the word.

Visualize the scene, the people, and the location where you learned the information.

Try to see, hear, or touch something that you originally associated with the fact.

Chronological search

Event search Visual search People search

Increased stimulus search

Retrace your steps in time in order to locate the moment when you last used the fact.

What were you doing when you used the information?

Try to see the paper on which the words were written.

Recall the people with whom you used the information. What did they say or do or look like?

Keep listening to the request or ask for more information. This one is hard to understand at first, but it is one of the most powerful.

Let's look at one example of how the increased stimulus search works. Consider this exchange:

Jane: You remember Janet, don't you?

Annette: No.

Jane: Sure you do. We met her while we were together.

Annette: No, but keep talking to see if you can jog my memory.

Jane: OK, we were at the Red Cross luncheon last month, and she sat across the table from us. She had on that red hat that we both liked so much.

Annette: That's it! I remember the hat. Now I remember who Janet is. She recently moved into that new condo in our neighborhood. In fact, I remember liking her very much. Thanks for the help.

What happened was that Annette didn't make a connection to Janet's name, but she had a good connection to the red hat. By asking for more stimuli, you increase your probability of finding a connection you can use.

Follow-up: Practice each of these strategies the next time you are looking for that fact that is right on the tip of your tongue!


In a letter to Robert Hooke,3 Sir Isaac Newton wrote, "If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of Giants."

Sir Isaac was referring to great scientists who had made so many contributions before him and from whom he had learned so very much that he did not have to rediscover their facts to advance science in the way that he did. This notion is the essence of schemata. New ideas rarely exist in a complete vacuum. They are related to other experiences, and we can borrow the knowledge from those experiences to learn new information.

For example, think about filling your car with gasoline. You know the general plan for accomplishing that task. When you arrive at a new gas station, or when your regular station gets reconfigured with new pumps, you do not have to learn completely from the beginning how to pump the gas into your car. You know the general scheme of pumping gas. You need only to learn what is different from what you already know. Use schemas to help you retrieve memories by asking yourself, "How is the problem at hand similar to something I already know?"

The strategies that use schemata include asking yourself two questions:

1. What is the same that I already know?

2. What is different from what I already know?

In this exercise, you will practice schema theory by identifying the topic of these cryptic conversations. Check your answers at the end of this chapter in "Solutions to Exercises and Games."

The Call

He said: Did you call?

She said: Yes.

He said: How long?

She said: They promised to deliver within 25 minutes.

He said: What toppings?

She said: The usual.

What are they talking about?_

Two, Please

He said: Here you go. What time does it start? She said: 7:35. Second door on the left. Thank you.

Where are they?_

How's That?

He said: How's that feel?

She said: Good. Do you have it in blue?

She said: Mmh, too tight. Does it come in a narrow?

He said: I think it does. Excuse me for a minute.

What is happening?_

Follow-up: Create he said, she said conversations of your own and ask another person what the conversation is about.

Compare and Contrast

In each of the following pictures, determine how the objects are alike. Then identify a distinguishing characteristic that discriminates the object on the right from the other objects in the group. Check your answers at the end of this chapter in "Solutions to Exercises and Games."

Figure 4-6:
Figure 4-7:

Figure 4-8:

In this figure, find as many relationships as you can. Look for groups of two, three, or more items.

Figure 4-9:

Follow-up: In each group of objects you encounter, look for common characteristics as well as distinguishing characteristics of its members.

Time Allowed to Search

Harmeyer's Law of Problem Solving states that 95 percent of your ability to solve a problem rests entirely in two beliefs:

1. A solution to the problem exists.

2. You can find the solution.

If either of these beliefs is compromised, you stop looking for the solution. The key to retrieving information is to keep looking for it. Allow yourself plenty of time to remember. Don't get frustrated with yourself if you cannot remember a fact in a split-second. The frustration will interfere with your search. Work through the search strategies you learned in this section.


The creation of associations refers to tying new information to already-learned information. Just as associations are formed by groups of people joined by a common interest, we can use common ideas to assist us in storing information in memory. You can make links or connections between what you want to learn and what you previously committed to memory. Thinking of one idea will cause you to think of the other. You can use this technique in all learning situations. The more associations you create, the more likely you will be able to recall the information successfully. This process is related to the expression Don't put all your eggs in one basket. If you have used several techniques to try to retain some information, you are in effect carrying your information in more than one basket. And if something happens to one basket, you can still access the eggs (information) in the other baskets.

One example is learning someone's name. Suppose that you encounter a woman named Janet. You might try to find something distinctive about her that reminds you of a planet to help you remember by a rhyming link. Perhaps she has a round face. When you see her face, it will remind you of a planet. Many names suit a person, and it is easy, once you get

in the practice of it, to notice a link to a name. The name might be the name of a relative or another friend. It may not be wise to link a name to a garment, unless it is a uniform that person will be wearing at your next meeting.

Let's take another look at a scenario we discussed in Chapter 1. Do you remember the wife who used auditory, visual, and kinesthetic strategies and never forgot anything? Her strategies are much more robust than we implied and deserve a second look. She repeats to herself the thing she is trying to remember to do in an interesting rhyme or pattern (verbal rehearsal, repetition priming, and coding), writes it down on a piece of paper, and puts it next to her place mat where she will see it as she eats her meals (imagery, repetition priming); then she tells her husband to remind her (repetition priming). She knows her husband will never remind her, and he knows she doesn't really expect him to remind her (so he doesn't bother to store it). They are operating on an accepted schema pattern here, where the circumstances of her telling him a fact are a memorable pattern. All the techniques combined create many associations between the information she needs to learn and the information she already has stored in her mind. Now you can truly understand why she never forgets a thing. You might try combining these or other techniques to see how well your ability to retain and recall information improves.

The associations you develop are going to be very personal. However, here is a little quiz that can help you appreciate the power of associations. You'll find some possible answers for these associations at the end of this chapter in "Solutions to Exercises and Games."

9. When you say January 15th, I say_.

Deck Four

You also can use associations as a storage technique. In this exercise, you will practice looking for connections by making associations and chunking information. Noticing connections is a skill rather than a talent, and developing this skill requires practice. Fortunately, there is an easy, low-cost method for looking for connections. You will need a deck of cards. Any set will do. This example uses a bridge deck.

Here's how: Deal four cards face up. Study the four cards and look for connections among the cards. Write down the connections you notice. Deal the next four cards, and continue until the deck is finished. Here are some connections to get your brain thinking in this direction:

• Look for the same number of pips on the cards—two of a kind, three of a kind, four of a kind. (Pips are spots on each card.)

• Look for a sequence of numbers—3, 4, 5 or 4, 6, 8.

• Look for all even or all odd numbers of pips on the cards.

• Try to sum two or three of the cards to equal the number of pips on the third or fourth card.

• Look for a birth date— 104 3+ 4♦ 5V might represent October 3, 1945.

Soon you will be noticing connections of your own. A sample run of a deck follows. Study our findings and look for connections in the last seven sets of cards. Check your answers at the end of this chapter in "Solutions to Exercises

Connections Noted

Pair of red jacks, three hearts and one diamond, Blackjack—two ways

All black cards, similar to the first deal—two of a kind, three of one suit

Pair of 10s, all red cards, similar to the first two deals, sequence of 2, 3

All even numbers, sequence of even numbers—4, 6,8, 10

and Games."




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Follow-up: Find a deck of cards and deal again. Look at each of the four cards and try to find a connection within each set of four cards.

If you are outdoors, you can play this game with license plates. Find a connection among the digits on the plate. Do the same for the letters. Look for all stick letters (A, V, M), rounded letters (O, C, S), and combination stick and curve (P, D, B). Be creative! But don't let it interfere with your driving!

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