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The memory occupies one section of the brain, and like the organs of the body, requires exercise to function at its full potential. By organising our thinking, applying mental images, concepts and schemas, we can improve our memory. I shall explain the meanings of these various techniques, provide examples and support this with proven evidence.

When we think about something we use semantic thought based on words, iconic thought based on mental images or enactive thought based on actions. Adults do most thinking in words, semantic thought, but experiments have shown that the use of mental images will enable more information to be remembered. Memory is improved because the image provides an extra cue for recall. An example of this is the key word technique developed by Raugh and Atkinson (1975) for students learning a foreign language. One translates a word into English then think of an image that describes the foreign word, this is the keyword. Research they carried out shows that of the two groups learning a new language, 88% of words could be recalled by the group using the keyword method but only 28% were learnt by the group relying on memory alone.

Spoors et al. (2010) state that mnemonics – memory strategies – are often based on mental images. They use the example “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” to remember the colours of the rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo and Violet.

Simonides, a Greek poet, developed “method of loci” in 500 BC. This ancient mnemonic device works by linking known locations or items to the things that need to be learned. Spoors et al (2010) use a shopping list as an example, the items on the list being mentally transposed on to items in ones home.

Another way of helping our ability to recall information is to put our thoughts into categories, grouping items or events that have similar properties. This is called concept formation. Take clothing for example. This concept can be divided into sub-concepts hats,...