Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

POINT VII. _Establish as many associations for an impression, as possible._

If you have studied the preceding chapters, you will recognize the value of this point. Association is memory’s method of indexing and cross-indexing. Each association renders it easier to remember or recollect the thing. Each association gives you another string to your mental bow. Endeavor to associate a new bit of knowledge with something already known by, and familiar to you. In this way to avoid the danger of having the thing isolated and alone in your mind–without a label, or index number and name, connect your object or thought to be remembered with other objects or thoughts, by the association of contiguity in space and time, and by relationship of kind, resemblance or oppositeness. Sometimes the latter is very useful, as in the case of the man who said that “Smith reminds me so much of Brown–he’s so _different_.” You will often be able to remember a thing by remembering something else that happened at the same place, or about the same time–these things give you the “loose ends” of recollection whereby you may unwind the ball of memory. In the same way, one is often able to recollect names by slowly running over the alphabet, with a pencil, until the sight of the capital first letter of the name brings the memory of those following it–this, however, only when the name has previously been memorized by _sight_. In the same way the first few notes of a musical selection will enable you to remember the whole air; or the first words of a sentence, the entire speech or selection following it. In trying to remember a thing which has escaped you, you will find it helpful to think of something associated with that thing, even remotely. A little practice will enable you to recollect the thing along the lines of the faintest association or clue. Some men are adept memory detectives, following this plan. The “loose end” in memory is all the expert requires. Any associations furnish these loose ends. An interesting and important fact to remember in this connection is that if you have some one thing that tends to escape your memory, you may counteract the trouble by noting the associated things that have previously served to bring it into mind with you. The associated thing once noted, may thereafter be used as a loose end with which to unwind the elusive fact or impression. This idea of association is quite fascinating when you begin to employ it in your memory exercises and work. And you will find many little methods of using it. But always use natural association, and avoid the temptation of endeavoring to tie your memory up with the red-tape of the artificial systems.

POINT VIII. _Group your impressions._

This is but a form of association, but is very important. If you can arrange your bits of knowledge and fact into logical groups, you will always be master of your subject. By associating your knowledge with other knowledge along the same general lines, both by resemblances and by opposites, you will be able to find what you need just when you need it. Napoleon Bonaparte had a mind trained along these lines. He said that his memory was like a large case of small drawers and pigeon-holes, in which he filed his information according to its kind. In order to do this he used the methods mentioned in this book of comparing the new thing with the old ones, and then deciding into which group it naturally fitted. This is largely a matter of practice and knack, but it may be acquired by a little thought and care, aided by practice. And it will repay one well for the trouble in acquiring it. The following table will be found useful in classifying objects, ideas, facts, etc., so as to correlate and associate them with other facts of a like kind. The table is to be used in the line of questions addressed to oneself regarding the thing under consideration. It somewhat resembles the table of questions given in Chapter XVII, of this book, but has the advantage of brevity. Memorize this table and use it. You will be delighted at the results, after you have caught the knack of applying it.

QUERY TABLE. _Ask yourself the following questions regarding the thing under consideration. It will draw out many bits of information and associated knowledge in your mind_:

(1) WHAT? (2) WHENCE? (3) WHERE? (4) WHEN? (5) HOW? (6) WHY? (7) WHITHER?

While the above Seven Queries are given you as a means of acquiring clear impressions and associations, they will also serve as a Magic Key to Knowledge, if you use them intelligently. If you can answer these questions regarding anything, you will know a great deal about that particular thing. And after you have answered them fully, there will be but little unexpressed knowledge regarding that thing left in your memory. Try them on some one thing–you cannot understand them otherwise, unless you have a very good imagination.

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