Friday, April 28, 2006

Things to remember about your memory

The following points outline how mood and context can affect memory:

1. Emotions drive attention, create meaning, and have their own memory pathways (LeDoux, 1994).

2. While feelings travel a circuitous, slower route throughout the body, the emotions always take the brain’s “superhighways” (Jensen, 1998).

3. Emotions drive creativity, and this is a function of the amygdala. “Removing the amygdala, however, is devastating. That destroys the capacities for creative play, imagination, key decision making, and the nuances of emotions that drive the arts, humor, imagination, love, music and altruism” (Jensen, 1998).

4. “When you experience a gut feeling, it’s because the same peptides that are released in your brain are also lining your gastrointestinal tract.” Miles Herkenham of the National Institute of Mental Health says that 98 percent of all communication within the body may be through these peptide messengers (in Pert 1997, p. 139) “This view implies a far greater role for the understanding and integration of emotions in learning” (Jensen).

5. We remember that which is most emotional. This happens because all emotional events receive preferential processing (Christianson, 1992).

6. Emotions give us a more activated and chemically stimulated brain, which helps us recall things better. The more intense the amygdala arousal, the stronger the imprint (Cahill, Prins, Weber, and McGaugh 1994) from Goleman (1995). (see information on the amygdala above)

7. Conclusion: What is the effect of all of this on memory? We remember things that are emotional and meaningful and tend to forget those things that have no attachment to emotion or meaning. Even if dry material is presented in the context of something exciting such as field trip, it is more likely that the material will be remembered.

8. Context-dependent memory means that memory gets associated to the text in which they are studied. A person’s ability to recall an item depends on the person’s ability to reproduce the list context. There is evidence that subjects have difficulty recalling items when the context changes between study and test (Anderson).

9. “Subjects can show better memory when their mental states at study and at test match” (Anderson).

10. Mood congruency refers to the fact that people find it easier to remember happy memories when happy and sad memories when sad (Anderson).

11. How can one make use of this information? If you are a student trying to remember something for a test, keep the following in mind:

  • Attach the content of the material to something personally meaningful or emotional.
  • Paraphrase material to create personal meaning of content.
  • Re-create an internal mood at test time similar to the one you had at study time.

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