Memory Training – A Common Sense Analysis Of Methods

Now let us turn our attention to methods. Many inquiries come to me about good or bad memory courses. People see these systems continually advertised in the leading papers and magazines and they are anxious to know what ones would be good to follow. We have all grown more or less familiar with the striking advertisements of various memory courses, good, bad, and indifferent. ” Stop Forgetting,” ” You are no stronger than your memory,” “A wandering mind never arrives at a supreme conclusion” these and similar headlines have arrested the attention of thousands, and doubtless a small percentage of them have profited by taking some course by mail. I shall try to give my readers the truth about these systems, without taking time for an exhaustive analysis. Admitting that some are good, the fact remains that the majority are so impractical that they are useless, and in some cases positively harmful. Many are nothing more than an ingenious combination of mechanical mnemonic devices. They fail utterly to offer the most economical way of committing to memory. They are ” Artificial in theory, strained in practice,” at best, artificial systems can help but little. The chief weakness which applies to nearly all these so-called systems is this: they are built around an elaborate system or ” Key ” which is so complex that it is more difficult to remember than the thing which you wish to remember. Any common-sense analysis will show this to be true. For example, the ” Expert,” offering such a course might say to a student, ” You can remember the phrase ` close-by ‘ or ` near-to ‘ by this key word—` Juxtaposition.’ ” ” But how can I remember ` Juxtaposition ‘? ” asks the bewildered student. ” Oh, just use another key—think of ` Propinquity ‘ and it will instantly suggest to you the first key word.” Half the mental energy spent on mastering the key or cue in some of these courses would definitely fix in mind the fact or figure or name or idea itself. In other words, the cure is worse than the disease. It is like Pat’s burglar alarm, which was an intricate contrivance so arranged that one end of a long bar was fastened under the window-sill and the other was suspended over the bed, sustaining a rock which was supposed to jar loose when the window was tampered with. But unfortunately, when the window was raised one night, the rock was so heavy that it fell on Pat and killed him. Another system which possesses a great deal of merit when used in the right way, is the method of remembering by pictures. Many brilliant men have used this method very successfully, although it is apt to be made ridiculous if the pictures are not drawn according to logical association of ideas. For example, a certain memory system offers the picture of a man sitting on a beehive offering a bag of money to a tramp, as a reminder which will help students to remember the second point of his speech, which is ” profit-sharing.” While the ridiculous incongruity of the picture might make it stick in one’s mind, yet I would class such a picture as bad because it is not based on logical common sense. The only possible value of the ridiculous, the absurd, the bizarre, is that it helps to fix a thing in mind by riveting attention to it. Mark Twain used the picture method very successfully. He tells of his early struggles in trying one method after another and giving them up. In despair, he finally hit upon what he thought was a very brilliant idea; to jot down on his different finger-nails the points which he wanted to use but he said that the first time he tried this, he forgot what finger he had used last and got all mixed up, so the next time he tried to solve the problem by simply licking off each finger-nail after he had used it. But he said this plan was a failure, too. It excited too much curiosity on the part of the audience. He said there was curiosity enough without that. But soon after this he hit upon the idea of drawing a series of pictures based upon the logical association of the ideas in his lecture, and this proved highly successful. Twenty-five years later he said that although he had not given that lecture in all those years, he could instantly recall those pictures and reconstruct the lecture at will.

In conducting the memory courses I have found, too, that many people have worked out personal systems, little individual methods all their own. Some of these are practical, some of them quite amusing. I know a man who has had great trouble remembering to bring home from down-town the things which his wife has asked him to bring. He finally solved the problem by what he calls the ” glove system.” During the day when he thinks of these things he simply jots them down on a slip of paper and stuffs them into the fingers of his gloves, so at night when he puts on his gloves to go home he immediately runs his fingers into these reminders. Another man, who has difficulty in remembering the things he should do the next morning, has a habit of writing them down on a slip of paper and putting it into his shoes just before he goes to bed. So in the morning his feet serve to remind his head. Scores of other equally interesting personal methods have been noted. Of course we are all familiar with the time-honored idea of tying a string on the finger so that we shall not forget. Neighbor Jones went to the office one morning with a piece of string tied conspicuously around his middle finger. About noon his partner noticed it and said, ” What is the string on the finger for, Jones? ” ” Oh, my wife tied that on so I wouldn’t forget to mail a letter for her.” ” Well, did you mail it? ” ” No,” said Jones, with deep disgust, ” she forgot to give it to me.” All of which might be adduced as a bit of evidence that even feminine memories are faulty at times.


In conclusion: the earnest student of memory who will follow a logical method and make his own personal adaption of its fundamental principles will go far. With a clear understanding of the subject and the right mental attitude toward it, discarding the fallacies and accepting the facts, he cannot fail to make progress.

Let us briefly summarize these facts. A keen memory is the result of training and development—receptiveness and retentiveness can both be developed in the same memory. Practical Memory Training is founded on the bedrock of modem psychology, and finally, it is not necessary to depend on crutches in the form of notes, strings, etc.

Your memory can be trusted. Let no one, even with the weakest memory, despair. The most encouraging fact in relation to the strengthening of a feeble memory and at the same time the most inspiring truth of psychology is this, Power goes where directed. That means that latent re-sources can be awakened, indifference stimulated into enthusiasm, your very weakness developed into strength. If the reader will direct his power along the lines laid down in this book, there can be only one inevitable result–A Good Memory.






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