Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

There is no Royal Road to Memory. The cultivation of the memory depends upon the practice along certain scientific lines according to well established psychological laws. Those who hope for a sure “short cut” will be disappointed, for none such exists. As Halleck says: “The student ought not to be disappointed to find that memory is no exception to the rule of improvement by proper methodical and long continued exercise. There is no royal road, no short cut, to the improvement of either mind or muscle. But the student who follows the rules which psychology has laid down may know that he is walking in the shortest path, and not wandering aimlessly about. Using these rules, he will advance much faster than those without chart, compass, or pilot. He will find mnemonics of extremely limited use. Improvement comes by orderly steps. Methods that dazzle at first sight never give solid results.”

The student is urged to pay attention to what we have to say in other chapters of the book upon the subjects of attention and association. It is not necessary to state here the particulars that we mention there. The cultivation of the attention is a prerequisite for good memory, and deficiency in this respect means deficiency not only in the field of memory but also in the general field of mental work. In all branches of The New Psychology there is found a constant repetition of the injunction to cultivate the faculty of attention and concentration. Halleck says: “Haziness of perception lies at the root of many a bad memory. If perception is definite, the first step has been taken toward insuring a good memory. If the first impression is vivid, its effect upon the brain cells is more lasting. All persons ought to practice their visualizing power. This will react upon perception and make it more definite. Visualizing will also form a brain habit of remembering things pictorially, and hence more exactly.”

The subject of association must also receive its proper share of attention, for it is by means of association that the stored away records of the memory may be recovered or re-collected. As Blackie says: “Nothing helps the mind so much as order and classification. Classes are few, individuals many: to know the class well is to know what is most essential in the character of the individual, and what burdens the memory least to retain.” And as Halleck says regarding the subject of association by relation: “Whenever we can discover any relation between facts, it is far easier to remember them. The intelligent law of memory may be summed up in these words: Endeavor to link by some thought relation each new mental acquisition to an old one. Bind new facts to other facts by relations of similarity, cause and effect, whole and part, or by any logical relation, and we shall find that when an idea occurs to us, a host of related ideas will flow into the mind. If we wish to prepare a speech or write an article on any subject, pertinent illustrations will suggest themselves. The person whose memory is merely contiguous will wonder how we think of them.”

In your study for the cultivation of the memory, along the lines laid down in this book, you have read the first chapter thereof and have informed yourself thoroughly regarding the importance of the memory to the individual, and what a large part it plays in the entire work of the mind. Now carefully read the third chapter and acquaint yourself with the possibilities in the direction of cultivating the memory to a high degree, as evidenced by the instances related of the extreme case of development noted therein. Then study the chapter on memory systems, and realize that the only true method is the natural method, which requires work, patience and practice–then make up your mind that you will follow this plan as far as it will take you. Then acquaint yourself with the secret of memory–the subconscious region of the mind, in which the records of memory are kept, stored away and indexed, and in which the little mental office-boys are busily at work. This will give you the key to the method. Then take up the two chapters on attention, and association, respectively, and acquaint yourself with these important principles. Then study the chapter on the phases of memory, and take mental stock of yourself, determining in which phase of memory you are strongest, and in which you need development. Then read the two chapters on training the eye and ear, respectively–you need this instruction. Then read over the several chapters on the training of the special phases of the memory, whether you need them or not–you may find something of importance in them. Then read the concluding chapter, which gives you some general advice and parting instruction. Then return to the chapters dealing with the particular phases of memory in which you have decided to develop yourself, studying the details of the instruction carefully until you know every point of it. Then, most important of all–_get to work_. The rest is a matter of practice, practice, practice, and rehearsal. Go back to the chapters from time to time, and refresh your mind regarding the details. Re-read each chapter at intervals. Make the book your own, in every sense of the word, by absorbing its contents.

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