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Memory Devices

Many devices have been invented for training or using the memory, and

not a few worthless systems have been imposed by conscienceless fakers

upon uninformed people. All memorizing finally must go back to the

fundamental laws of brain activity and the rules growing out of these

laws. There is no royal road to a good memory.

THE EFFECTS OF CRAMMING.--Not a few students depend on cramming for much

of their l
arning. If this method of study would yield as valuable

permanent results, it would be by far the most sensible and economical

method to use; for under the stress of necessity we often are able to

accomplish results much faster than when no pressure is resting upon us.

The difficulty is, however, that the results are not permanent; the

facts learned do not have time to seek out and link themselves to

well-established associates; learned in an hour, their retention is as

ephemeral as the application which gave them to us.

Facts which are needed but temporarily and which cannot become a part of

our body of permanent knowledge may profitably be learned by cramming.

The lawyer needs many details for the case he is trying, which not only

are valueless to him as soon as the case is decided, but would

positively be in his way. He may profitably cram such facts. But those

facts which are to become a permanent part of his mental equipment, such

as the fundamental principles of law, he cannot cram. These he must have

in a logical chain which will not leave their recall dependent upon a

chance cue. Crammed facts may serve us during a recitation or an

examination, but they never really become a part of us. Nothing can take

the place of the logical placing of facts if they are to be remembered

with facility, and be usable in thinking when recalled.

REMEMBERING ISOLATED FACTS.--But after all this is taken into

consideration there still remain a large number of facts which refuse to

fit into any connected or logical system. Or, if they do belong with

some system, their connection is not very close, and we have more need

for the few individual facts than for the system as a whole. Hence we

must have some means of remembering such facts other than by connecting

them with their logical associations. Such facts as may be typified by

the multiplication table, certain dates, events, names, numbers,

errands, and engagements of various kinds--all these need to be

remembered accurately and quickly when the occasion for them arises. We

must be able to recall them with facility, so that the occasion will not

have passed by before we can secure them and we have failed to do our

part because of the lapse.

With facts of this type the means of securing a good memory are the same

as in the case of logical memory, except that we must of necessity

forego the linking to naturally related associates. We can, however,

take advantage of the three laws which have been given. If these methods

are used faithfully, then we have done what we can in the way of

insuring the recall of facts of this type, unless we associate them with

some artificial cue, such as tying a thread around our finger to

remember an errand, or learning the multiplication table by singing it.

We are not to be too ready to excuse ourselves, however, if we have

forgotten to mail the letter or deliver the message; for our attention

may have been very lax when we recorded the direction in the first

place, and we may never have taken the trouble to think of the matter

between the time it was given into our keeping and the time we were to

perform the errand.

MNEMONIC DEVICES.--Many ingenious devices have been invented to assist

the memory. No doubt each one of you has some way of your own of

remembering certain things committed to you, or some much-needed fact

which has a tendency to elude you. You may not tie the traditional

string around your finger or place your watch in the wrong pocket; but

if not, you have invented some method which suits your convenience

better. While many books have been written, and many lectures given

exploiting mnemonic systems, they are, however, all founded upon the

same general principle: namely, that of association of ideas in the

mind. They all make use of the same basis for memory that any of us use

every time we remember anything, from the commonest event which occurred

last hour to the most abstruse bit of philosophy which we may have in

our minds. They all tie the fact to be remembered to some other fact

which is sure of recall, and then trust the old fact to bring the new

along with it when it again comes into the mind.

Artificial devices may be permissible in remembering the class of facts

which have no logical associates in which we can relate them; but even

then I cannot help feeling that if we should use the same care and

ingenuity in carefully recording the seemingly unrelated facts that we

do in working out the device and making the association in it, we should

discover hidden relations for most of the facts we wish to remember, and

we should be able to insure their recall as certainly and in a better

way than through the device. Then, also, we should not be in danger of

handing over to the device various facts for which we should discover

relations, thus placing them in the logical body of our usable

knowledge where they belong.