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Organizing Through Meaning

Learning information often occurs by making meaningful associations between new material and memories already stored in the brain.

One technique of organizing through meaning, called "method of loci", utilizes visual memory and association to remember pieces of information. Begin by picturing in your mind a familiar path that you walk and landmarks that you pass. For each landmark, make a mental connection between the information to be remembered and the object along the path. For example, if you were trying to remember State capitals and along your path there was a dentist's office and a hot-dog vendor, you could remember DENver, Colorado when you picture the DENtist and Frankfurt, Kentucky when you see the hot dog (a.k.a."frankfurter") vendor.

Visual Organizing

Information can also be remembered by creating visual images associated to the item to be learned. This technique can be used in several ways. One way is to visualize a diagram or chart that organizes the information. If the information to be remembered is not already organized in such a way, try drawing something yourself, like a flowchart that you can picture in your head.

Another method is to imagine a silly or vivid scene that incorporates the item to be remembered. Essentially, you are creating a mental snapshot to recall at a later time. For example, think of a really memorable advertisement. Isn't it easier to remember what product the ad is selling when the images involved are humorous or unusual in some way?

Organizing Through Similarities

This technique is different from others in that it does not rely on images as much as it does on mental organization. By grouping items or concepts into groups based on their similarities or related characteristics, you can put information into mental boxes that can be labeled in any way you find the most useful.

The idea behind this technique is that everyone has different categories that information can be grouped into. If you were trying to remember names of students in a class, they could be grouped into names of relatives, names of friends, names that can be male or female, etc. The groups that are most effective in retaining information will vary with each individual.

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