Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

Second in number, however, are the impressions received through the sense of hearing, and consequently the memory stores away a great number of sound impressions. In some cases the impressions of sight and sound are joined together, as for instance in the case of words, in which not only the sound but the shape of the letters composing the word, or rather the word-shape itself, are stored away together, and consequently are far more readily remembered or recollected than things of which but one sense impression is recorded. Teachers of memory use this fact as a means of helping their students to memorize words by speaking them aloud, and then writing them down. Many persons memorize names in this way, the impression of the written word being added to the impression of the sound, thus doubling the record. The more impressions that you can make regarding a thing, the greater are the chances of your easily recollecting it. Likewise it is very important to attach an impression of a weaker sense, to that of a stronger one, in order that the former may be memorized. For instance, if you have a good eye memory, and a poor ear memory, it is well to attach your sound impressions to the sight impressions. And if you have a poor eye memory, and a good ear memory it is important to attach your sight impressions to your sound impressions. In this way you take advantage of the law of association, of which we have told you.

Under the sub-class of sight impressions, are found the smaller divisions of memory known as memory of locality; memory of figures; memory of form; memory of color; and memory of written or printed words. Under the sub-class of sound impressions are found the smaller divisions of memory known as memory of spoken words; memory of names; memory of stories; memory of music, etc. We shall pay special attention to these forms of memory, in succeeding chapters.

The second general class of memory,–memory of ideas,–includes the memory of facts, events, thoughts, lines of reasoning, etc., and is regarded as higher in the scale than the memory of sense impressions, although not more necessary nor useful to the average person. This form of memory of course accompanies the higher lines of intellectual effort and activities, and constitutes a large part of what is known as true education, that is education which teaches one to think instead of to merely memorize certain things taught in books or lectures.

The well-rounded man, mentally, is he who has developed his memory on all sides, rather than the one who has developed but one special phase of the faculty. It is true that a man’s interest and occupation certainly tend to develop his memory according to his daily needs and requirements, but it is well that he should give to the other parts of his memory field some exercise, in order that he may not grow one-sided. As Halleck has said: “Many persons think that memory is mainly due to sight; but we have as many different kinds of memory as we have senses. To sight, the watermelon is a long greenish body, but this is its least important quality. Sight alone gives the poorest idea of the watermelon. We approach the vine where the fruit is growing, and in order to decide whether it is ripe, we tap the rind and judge by the sound. We must remember that a ripe watermelon has a certain resonance. By passing our hands over the melon, we learn that it has certain touch characteristics. We cut it open and learn the qualities of taste and smell. All this knowledge afforded by the different senses must enter into a perfected memory image. Hence we see that many complex processes go to form an idea of a thing. Napoleon was not content with only hearing a name. He wrote it down, and having satisfied his eye memory as well as his ear memory, he threw the paper away.”

In this book we shall point out the methods and processes calculated to round out the memory of the student. As a rule his strong phases of memory need but little attention, although even in these a little scientific knowledge will be of use. But in the weaker phases, those phases in which his memory is “poor,” he should exert a new energy and activity, to the end that these weaker regions of the memory may be cultivated and fertilized, and well stored with the seed impressions, which will bear a good crop in time. There is no phase, field, or class of memory that is not capable of being highly developed by intelligent application. It requires practice, exercise and work–but the reward is great. Many a man is handicapped by being deficient in certain phases of memory, while proficient in others. The remedy is in his own hands, and we feel that in this book we have given to each the means whereby he may acquire a “good” memory along any or all lines.

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