Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Chunking and Linking

Some friends shared a memory trick with me recently.

Apparently our brains cope best with remembering five to seven chunks of data at a time. Try to remember more than that and we are likely to forget it all.

But, if we break down - or Chunk - large amounts of data into chunks, with each chunk containing up to five or six separate bits of data, suddenly we can remember far more.

The initial example they gave was telephone numbers. Ever tried committing an eleven digit number to memory? A nightmare! But break it down into five digit area code and then six digit house number (or even better - two times three separate chunks) and suddenly it becomes a lot easier.

They then showed how by combining Chunking with Linking - we can phenomonally improve our memory. The example given was to break down or Chunk a large number of items to remember and then within each chunk to create a story or link between the items. I've just started a new job and need to recall people's names. For example: Tom sits next to Sarah with the big hair who has a crush on Gary who fell over a chair dropping coffee on Janice who set off the fire alarm... Would it work? Better if the story is grounded in reality maybe...

I'm still not sure about Linking - but it will be worth practicing. Anything which can improve our memories and ability to recall information when needed increases our effectiveness.

I've often struggled to commit programming languages to memory. Key words sink in through repetition of use but useful but rarely used commands are harder to recall. I can see how using chunking could help by grouping a set of commands but how to link them in a way that can be recalled? Something to work on as I build up my Java and Android knowledge.

My memory IS getting better! Yours can too!

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