15 January, 2009

Use some exercises to learn memory techniques: chunking

Short-Term Memory (STM) has a limited capacity, about 7 items, and a limited duration, about 30 seconds.

Reflecting from your own learning experience, you will notice that the limited capacity in STM is the problem in most of your study.

Remember that if one can only hold about 7 items at a time in STM, then there are limits on how much information one can transfer to Long-Term Memory. All our Long-term memory are build and selected from our STM. Hence, if you cannot remember what is learned in the classroom everyday, it is hard for you to recall them in examination.


To demonstrate the limits of STM, look at the letters printed below for about 10 to 30 seconds and try to write them down without looking at the screen.


Are you capable of writing down all the letters or recalling them in segments without mistakes? It is difficult as 14 letters exceeded the capacity of your STM.

Since 14 letters is difficult for most people to store in their STM, chunking can be applied here to increase the capacity of STM.

Instead of trying to remember 14 letters you must first chunk the letters into a few segments.

For example:.


If you chunk the 14 letters into 6 chunks as shown above, it is easy to keep all the letters in STM.
Having the 6 chunks in your first level of chunking, you can move further and map some patterns.
You will notice that X is the first and last letter. IBM-SAT-MTV-PHD are the 12 letters between the two Xs.
The pattern "X------------X" and "IBM-SAT" + "MTV-PHD"complete the 14 letters.
If you can translate the middle chunks to sentences, like "I used IBM on SAT" and "he watched MTV to get his PHD". It is alright to have meaningful or meaningless sentences so long as it help you in your recall.

The key is to actively chunk letters, words, sentences, or numbers such that there are 7 or less chunks.

If you use an active imagination, you can chunk anything.

But chunking takes work, and to get good at chunking it takes practice. To practice chunking on your own, click the link here:


Source of information:

Memory techniques "Chunking" by Dr. Mark W. Vernoy, Professor of Psychology, Dean of Social & Behavioral Sciences. Palomar CollegeSan Marcos



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