Tag Archives: Improve memory

Semantic Memory: “It’s on the tip of my tongue!”

“It’s on the tip of my tongue!” Semantic memory stores what we now about the world and language. When we want to remember certain things that we’ve learned like the capital of France or the current president of the United States, we’re efficiently using our semantic memory.Find out what semantic memory is, how it works, how it can be improved, and some of the problems related to poor semantic memory.

What is semantic memory? Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

What is semantic memory?

What is semantic memory? Tulving was the first person to establish the term “semantic memory”, which is a type of memory that holds meaning and general knowledge, where our specific experiences don’t come into play.

For example, if you want to answer the question “how many hours are there in a day?”, you don’t have to remember the exact moment in your life that you learned it. Semantic memory allows us to “automatically” remember that there are 24 hours in a day, without having to recall the specific events that led to us learning the information.

We use semantic memory to remember concepts that we’ve learned about the world and language. There is also a type of long-term memory that we acquire that, once it’s learned, we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives.

Semantic memory extends to all of the knowledge that we may learn. For example, if we want to remember that a lion is a mamas that has 4 legs, you don’t need to relate it to any specific event or experience that you’ve had with a lion- it’s just in our brain.

  • Semantic memory is a type of long-term memory: It allows us to remember things for days, years, or decades. There is no limit on its duration.
  • Semantic memory is declarative: This means that we are constantly using it.
  • Difference between episodic and semantic memory: Episodic memory is how we remember autobiographical memories, like what you ate for breakfast, or what you did last weekend. The main difference between these two types of memories is that semantic memory is a type of dictionary that doesn’t require that you have any specific personal knowledge or experience with the word.

Where are words located in the brain? A team of scientists created an interactive map of the areas of the brain that are activated when certain words are heard. This semantic brain map shows how language is distributed through the cortex and both hemispheres of the brain, grouping words by meaning and constructing a brain dictionary.

What does semantic memory do?

Semantic memory gives us a mental dictionary that organizes words, concepts, and symbols that we store throughout our life. It allows us to reserve cognitive resources and interpret, quickly and easily, the world in which we live.

Semantic memory is a fundamental part of our daily life. For example, it allows us to “automatically” know that lions are mammals, without having to go through our brain and think bout the lions that we’ve seen in our life.

Our semantic memory gives a general meaning to the word “lion”: Large mammal with four legs and lots of hair around its head.

If we had to think about all of the lions that exist in the world in order to remember and describe it, it would be impossible. Semantic memory gives us the ability to group multiple concrete concepts (animals, people, objects, etc.) into general concepts. These things can be categorized into an infinite number of areas, like animals, objects, living things, non-living things, mammals, reptiles, etc.).

Alterations of semantic memory: Access disorders and semantic storage

People with semantic dementia: Have problems finding the right meanings for concepts. As with almost any pathology or disorder, symptoms and characteristics of the disorder vary from patient to patient. Semantic dementia is characterized by a difficulty in remembering the meaning of concepts or words, but don’t necessarily have trouble carrying-out the task that the word represents. For example, they may have trouble remembering the word/concept “iron”, but they would be able to use an iron.

People with damage to the prefrontal cortex: It’s been shown that patients with damage to the prefrontal cortex may have trouble carrying-out a task related to a certain word or concept, but don’t have trouble recalling the concept (the inverse of the previous point). People with this kind of brain damage are unable to to certain tasks that may seem simple to others, like going to the dentist when their gums hurt, or washing their clothes when they’re dirty, but are easily able to recall the words for these actions.

Alzheimer’s Disease: Poor episodic (autobiographical) memory is a common characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, but semantic memory is affected as well. Patients with Alzheimer’s tend to develop language disorders and have a hard time carrying out tasks related to a word or concept.

Exercises to improve semantic memory

1. CogniFit, leader in cognitive assessments and brain games

Being able to easily recall words from our vocabulary is one of our main cognitive skills as humans. Without this, we would constantly be searching for a word in our memory and have that feeling of “it’s on the tip of my tongue!”. It’s common to sometimes forget the exact word that you’re looking for, but if it happens often, it may be a sign of poor semantic memory.

CogniFit is a professional tool that helps assess and improve access to our vocabulary. Studying neuroplasticity has shown that the more we use a neural circuit, the stronger it gets. This idea can be applied to the neural circuits related to naming, working memory, short-term memory, visual memory, auditory short-term memory, contextual memory, etc.

The ability to find the correct word for an object or concept can be improved if it is properly trained. The battery of clinical exercises from CogniFit allows you to assess and train your Naming and other cognitive skills related to memory.

How does CogniFit work? The program first evaluates your cognitive level in certain cognitive skills (like naming), and based on the results gathered, provides a complete brain training program.

The different interactive exercises are presented as fun brain games that can be played on a mobile device or computer. After each session, CogniFit will provide a detailed graph with the user’s cognitive progression.

2. Remember what’s going on around you

Its good to remember what’s going on around you: The best exercises for improving semantic memory are remembering a series of words and increasing the amount and difficulty of the word. For example, try to remember all 50 states in the United States, then the each state’s capitals, and then move on to continents and countries.

3. Learn new languages and travel

Learning new language requires us to expand and learn new vocabulary, new grammar rules, and new sentence structures. Our semantic memory is constantly being used and strengthened as we learn language.

Seeing new places and learning about new cultures can also help you find new ways of doing things. For example, if you might learn that people in a different culture eat, clean, or raise their children differently than you. Exposing yourself to these new ideas can help you adapt to situations when you’re back in your home country.

4. Give meaning to ideas by understand what you’re learning

How does the brain learn? Studies have shown that we learn better and more quickly if we give meaning to the concepts that we learn. For example, when studying for a test, you’ll learn the information much better if you give it some kind of meaning aside from the concept itself. Learn more about memory techniques.

5. Exercises for patients with semantic memory problems

There are a number of different exercises that you can do to help improve semantic memory. You can write down a series of basic questions that the patient has to answer. If they answer incorrectly, correct them in the moment. For example, you could ask the season in the year, the names of the months, or what are the numbers between 1 and 15.

You can also give them incomplete sentences that they have to complete. For example, “lemons are the color…”, “The capital of the USA is…”, etc.

We use our semantic memory everyday, and there is hardly any point of the day where we aren’t using it. It helps us talk, communicate, and learn about the objects and concepts of the world around us. With all of the information that we have stored in our semantic memory, it’s amazing that we’re able to keep it organized and pull up the words that we want at a given time. If you tried to re-learn the days of the week without giving it any meaning, it would be almost impossible. Semantic memory allows us to reserve cognitive resources and store more information in our brain.

Semantic memory allows us to figure out how the world works and carry out the necessary tasks to get through the day (if you’re sick, you go to the doctor), and follow “scripts” almost automatically (go to a restaurant, wait until you’re seated, order food, etc.).

Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish by Eva Rodriguez Weisz

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
  • Train your brain cognitively, with training programs such as CogniFit which is a leading company in cognitive brain training programs. You can register here.

David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

How to Remember Everything: Memory Techniques

Are you struggling to remember things in your everyday life? Whether its forgetting people’s names immediately after meeting them, attempting to recall your grocery list, or trying your best to remember material for an upcoming exam, you just feel as if nothing is helping these memories stick. Don’t despair, because there are proven memory techniques you can use to improve your memory!

These are issues we have all come across at some point in time. It is impossible to retain all information that comes into our minds. Considering there is such an immense amount of stimuli that we are constantly exposed to; sights, smells, tastes, sounds, textures, thoughts, etc. it’s incredible that we are able to even process any of this information simultaneously.

How much do you know about memory?


Instead of the constant bombardment of information, our brains process what is important and relevant to specific environments and situations. From there, a large portion of information is soon forgotten because it is only important in that instance. However, some of this information will continue on to become memories. You may be thinking, in an instance such as an introduction to a new colleague or individual, why is it that I almost instantly forget their name? I would consider that to be important for that encounter, shouldn’t it solidify and become a memory? It is almost as if we should call the process forgetting and not remembering.

Although this information is important, our brain is processing many other important characteristics of said individual such as social cues of their posture, facial expression, and smell, all to determine this individual is not a threat. After all, we are animals and these are vital signs to determine our survival in this instance. After processing all of these other bits of information, their name has slipped. You may feel embarrassed about trying to recall their name so you wait until their name is said again or you do not address them. This method may work, but there are much more efficient memory techniques that can improve your ability to solidify names, events, lists, and nearly anything you want to remember and these memories will be easy to recall for the rest of your life.

Memory Techniques

Chunking

Famous cognitive psychologist George Miller (1955) discovered in his studies that humans are able to remember about seven “chunks” of information at a time. He deemed this the 7 plus or minus 2 rule, being that we can work with about 5 to 9 chunks of information, with the average being 7. For example, if I asked you to remember the list of numbers:

9    7   3   5   5   5   9   3   6   5

You may look at that and think that is way too many numbers to remember at once, or, you may have done the natural tendency we have learned to do in our modern age and looked at it as a phone number, 973-555-9365. Instead of remembering ten individual numbers, we group a string of numbers into three separate chunks of numbers. 973 (chunk), 555(chunk), 9365 (chunk). Using this memory technique, we can group bits of related information together and recall these bits while staying in our 7 ± 2 rule, considering we are only working with three chunks of information.

Abstract Imagery

Although chunking is one of the effective memory techniques for remembering lists, we are not always presented with lists to remember. When we meet a new coworker, we are only focused on trying to remember their name. Well an easy way to do this is as soon as an individual states their name, attribute their name to an abstract image or concept to strengthen this memory. An example of this would be using my name, Eric Stone. To easily remember my name, when we shake hands you may want to visualize me as a huge man made of stone, similar to The Thing from Fantastic Four.

When it comes to using this abstract visualization memory technique, it is helpful to make the imagery as outlandish and ridiculous as possible. The more absurd the imaginary visual, the more likely you are to recall it in the future. You can often pair this memory strategy with those below to create even more concrete images in your head. Two birds with one stone! (Concrete. Two birds with one stone. Eric Stone. Now I know you will never forget my name using all of this abstract imagery!)

Repetition

The most common form of remembering is through the use of repetition. I want you to look at these next few words. After reading through the list, turn away and in one minute turn back to see how many words you can remember.

Mug   Delta   Hole   Yellow   Brain   Book   Fifteen   Snowman   Division

If I had to take a guess I would say that you remembered Mug, Delta, Hole, and Division. The reason for this is due to the Serial Position Effect. The order in which something occurs or appears effects our ability to remember it, and there are two forms of these effects, the Primacy and Recency effects. We are best at remembering items that appear first and last in a list because the items at the beginning of the list we repeat in our heads and the items at the end of the list are the most recent to enter our memories. If I had to take another guess, I would bet that you either closed your eyes or looked up and repeated this list of items to yourself in order to retain the information. Repeating this list of items in your head is the most common memory technique to remember because it just works! But as was mentioned, we are best at remembering the items at the beginning and end of the list so it is best to pair this memory technique with another in order to remember the whole list.

The Memory Palace

Chunking and repetition are memory techniques that come natural to us because we unknowingly use these memory techniques our whole lives. However, there are other forms of remembering that are much more effective and with little practice can make a substantial difference in your life, enough so that in just the matter of an hour you can teach yourself to remember the order of a whole deck of cards!

Memory Palace Memory Techniques – Cards

In his bestselling novel, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, Joshua Foer embarks on a journey from reporting on the USA Memory Championship to becoming one of the contestants! The memory technique, he found, used among all of these expert memory competitors is that they develop a “memory palace.”

A memory palace is an environment in which you are incredibly familiar with, your childhood home for example, and you can visualize quite extensively in your imagination. In order to remember a list of items, for example, one would want to imagine placing these items throughout their childhood home, and then imagine walking around this memory palace and visualizing each item. So to take an example in which one might encounter on their chores, let’s make the list of items: RSVP to wedding, buy dog food, finish installing wifi router, call doctor, and sort out credit card receipts. This list may appear extensive, however, when you place these chores as visualizations throughout your imaginary home, you can easily recall these items. So now imagine walking up your driveway and you see a bride and groom at the altar, as you enter your front door your dog is salivating with a massive puddle of drool that soaks your feet, you turn to make a left down the hall and you see massive wifi signals bouncing off the walls; you see where I’m going with this right? You want to visualize yourself walking through your house and the images, sounds, smells, etc. appearing in front of you. Then the next time you want to remember what item is next on your list, you can just visualize yourself continuing this journey walking throughout your memory palace and these items will be right where you left them in your memory palace. I suggest making these items appear as abstract as possible in order to really reinforce the memory!

We can all benefit from improving our memories and over time of practicing these memory techniques they will become natural habits and you will notice a huge improvement in your ability to remember. I hope you remember where you learned all these new memory techniques!