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LEARNING WITH WORDS

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INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

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+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

+

+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

+

+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

+

+

+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

+

+

+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

+

+

+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

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+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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+

HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

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HOME

INTRODUCTION


LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL

(emotional state, certain lifestyle factors, knowledge base, personality

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

(general plan, memory form

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FIRST STAGES

( introduction, overall plan, Stage 1 - establishment of purpose, Stage 2 - material assessment) 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

(introduction, Stage 3 - material conversion, Stage 4 - creation of presentation-style material, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

(introduction, Stages 3 and 4 - creation of the mind maps, Stage 5 - learning, Stage 6 - testing and revision)

EPILOGUE

                           END

 INTRODUCTION

   With so much on the market about brain memory it is probably natural for your first thoughts at seeing the title of this work as being slightly negative, dismissing it as more useless instructions on how to improve your ability to learn and remember things. These negative thoughts may not be dispelled after flicking through the site, but in my defence this work is intended for a specific group of people. It is intended for those of us who need language, particularly written language, to learn anything. This means, those of us who prefer text to pictures, need to write things down and find imagining weird, unreal things virtually impossible, which of course puts us at a disadvantage in the modern world. Why? Well, a lot of information is imparted in various vocal configurations, e.g. presentations, podcasts, video-feeds and so it is not originally in our preferred written form, it is quick, and probably contains a considerable amount of irrelevant information. Therefore, learning in the case of people who prefer language becomes more difficult and an adjustment in technique is required to maintain our learning efficiency.

    This work aims to increase the effectiveness of learning by first looking at how the individual himself can optimise his learning situation and concludes by suggesting appropriate methods for learning material on the basis of whether it has to be recalled either quickly after learning, or after a period of time. The ideas put forward are based on not only recognised brain memory research and psychology studies, but also on more novel approaches as dictated in the more technical part of this website, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`.

LEARNING AND THE INDIVIDUAL  

Several areas affect the ability of an individual to learn. These are:

1)      His emotional state

2)      Certain lifestyle factors

3)      Pre-existing knowledge base

4)      Basic skills involved in cognitive processes

5)      Personality and attitude effects

EMOTIONS AND EMOTIONAL STATE

   Everyone knows that emotions and emotional state affect how learning is carried out and what is recalled. Sayings such as ´Relax`, ´Keep cool` are well known as language devices to access this emotional side so that learning becomes easier. However, not many theorists include it as a way of optimising brain memory efficiency. According to my own version of the brain memory mechanism described more fully in the site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, the emotional system plays two roles in learning and recall, and hence there are two ways in which optimisation of the learning process can occur via this system. The two roles are: 

1)      dictating the real-time functioning level of the brain,

2)      dictating the value of events.

mechanisms and functioning level of the brain

    Emotions and emotional state dictate in real-time the functioning level of the brain through the actions of two neurotransmitter systems acting in the basal ganglia region (a mid-brain region known for its role in orchestrating voluntary movement) and the prefrontal cortex (a region at the front of the brain thought to be involved in personality and self-awareness as well as planning and decision-making). The mechanisms of the emotional systems involve the two neurotransmitters, dopamine and noradrenaline, the former associated with the emotion, pleasure and the latter, pain and fear. Sensory organ activation representing the stimulus information in the external environment (i.e. what we want to learn) initiates a firing pathway leading from them to a middle point, the thalamus (considered as a gateway for nerve transmission), and then on to higher brain areas where the signals are interpreted and dealt with. At the same time a second pathway representing the emotional system is activated leading from the thalamus, through the hippocampus area (an area linked to spatial memory) amongst others and ending in the prefrontal cortex. The emotional system is said to be represented at this point by a ´sliding switch` mechanism (Salt, 2011), skewed in favour of pleasure against pain/fear. The ´position` of the switch determines the subsequent firing of the prefrontal cortical area, and this ultimately affects the gate-keeping function of the thalamus and hence, nerve transmission.

    The two neurotransmitter systems differ in their dominance of brain areas. The dopamine-based system, representing a ´pleasure` signal is achieved by appropriate firing of the prefrontal cortex sliding switch which then fires an area of the basal ganglia called the globus pallidus. This results in activation of the basal ganglia area, which has an inhibitory affect on the firing power of the nerve transmission gateway, the thalamus. Therefore, under the conditions of pleasure/relaxation, the full extent of thalamus capability is not used. At the same time, the prefrontal cortex has an inhibitory effect on another basal ganglia area, the amygdala.

   The amygdala is important because it is linked with the activity of the other neurotransmitter-based emotional system, that of noradrenaline - the neurotransmitter responsible for the negative emotions experienced with fear or pain. In this case, according to the ´outside the box` theory summarised in ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, a negative emotion will stimulate the prefrontal cortical sliding-switch to positively activate the amygdala by removing its inhibition. The inhibitory effect of the basal ganglia on the thalamus is lifted as a result leading to changes in quality and quantity of the incoming sensory information. The action also initiates effects on the pineal gland and hypothalamus causing the ´fight or flight` responses and/or other appropriate survival-type actions known to be linked with fear or pain emotions.

   The importance of the emotional systems is demonstrated in the concept of overall working level of the brain (the OWL). According to the hypothesis proposed by this author (Salt, 2011) one of these two neurotransmitter-based brain systems dominates at all times and this can influence the natural level at which the brain works. Although other factors can also influence the brains activity such as circadian rhythms of the sleep/wake cycle or the female oestrous cycle, it is suggested that in terms of brain memory only the actions of the dopamine or noradrenaline systems play significant roles. The idea of an overall working level is not new, and may be similar to that described by Piaget in 1970 with his ´equilibration` concept. Piaget proposed that in a changing environment that the individual needs a stable internal environment (in this case, the OWL) and will use brain memory and processing capability to restore equilibrium if disrupted. In people, the dopamine-based system appears to be the preferential system since the cognition processes, including brain memory, and other physiological processes are optimised when OWL is dominated this way. Evidence for this is psychological (for example, people strive to maintain ´happiness` and  ´happy` people perform better and live longer) and physiological (for example, a dopamine-based reward system exists in the brain and one of the important regions of the basal ganglia system, the corpus striatum, develops in the foetus as early as 9 weeks).

   Now, that the mechanisms of the emotional systems and the importance on natural working level of the brain have been described we can see how emotional state could affect brain memory and how we, the individual can influence the functioning of these systems to some extent. Physiologically, we can influence both by anything that affects the functioning of those brain areas involved in both dopamine or noradrenaline-based systems and how they inter-relate. This cannot be carried out so easily consciously and known physiological changes are normally negative, e.g. a decrease in signalling linked to changes in dopamine activity within an area in the basal ganglia associated with reward has been observed in depression (Singer, 2003) or increased signalling in the case of schizophrenia (Davison and Neale, 1996). These examples should be taken as a warning for all of you who hope to change your cognitive performance by taking drugs of some kind.  Much is said about the advantages of brain memory enhancers, which work by influencing the neurotransmitter functioning in the brain, but I hope the above simplified description of the emotional systems alone is enough to dissuade people from taking this route. The brain is a finely balanced, organic body ´part` and drugs may positively affect one mechanism, but at the same time, negatively affect another. Hence, trying to achieve cognitive enhancement the chemical route should be avoided.

   However, the good news is that manipulation of the OWL can also be achieved to a certain extent psychologically. Emotional state can be influenced by for example, using speech or priming (roughly preparing the brain content-wise for what is to come). The use of language (inner speech or speaking out aloud) is easy to understand. Giving ourselves a pep talk can lift performance or reduce anxiety. Priming is also understandable – if we know what is coming by doing a little preparation then the task seems easier or we seem more relaxed by it. A relaxed attitude induced with positive thoughts and confidence in one`s own ability to succeed in the task is more likely to have a positive outcome. Alternatively, anybody expecting the worst is likely to get it. The mere act of fearing something leads to a swing towards to the negative noradrenaline system and has effects on cognitive performance consistent with its domination. More will be discussed on such methods later, but for now it is important to recognise that one way to influence mental functioning and performance is by influencing the emotional state at the time of learning.

emotional memories and values

    The second role of the emotional systems in brain memory mechanisms is that emotions and emotional state give rise to the value of events through the simultaneous storage of event information and emotional state information. According to the mechanism advocated, the storage of the event information is suggested as taking place in the cortical areas associated with the sensory systems and the emotional information in the aforementioned prefrontal cortex. This stored emotional information is called the emotional tag and it reflects physiologically the positioning of the skewed prefrontal cortical sliding switch. The skewed nature of the switch means that the noradrenaline-based system is activated through only one position of the switch, whereas the dopamine system is activated through many more. This allows the pleasure response to be graded rather than a single ´on-off` type response responsible in the case of pain/fear situations to switch on the ´fight or flight` and other survival responses. The suggested ´pleasure` grading is demonstrable by considering the number of adjectives that describe the various levels of ´happiness`, for example relaxed, happy, ecstatic and passionate. Psychologically, the result of such a system is that the individual can associate personal values to any event experienced and they can be manipulated by influencing the workings of both emotional systems at the time of storage. Personal values or ´worth` are one of the factors that determine our behaviour and in the case of brain memory, can determine what we learn and what we do with this knowledge. It is clear that this is a ´real` feature of memories, since we can all list things in order of things we like and dislike and we all know that the greater something is liked the more likelihood there is that this is the action followed.

   Using our memories and experiences each individual creates his own list of priorities on which his actions, processing and decision-making are based, e.g. self-protection, things or people of value to him and his views on ´how the world works`. The basic premise is that the ´self` (the individual) has the highest priority (self-interest). Every individual has basic needs and drives, e.g. hunger and security, and this idea was developed by the psychologist, Murray (1938) who detailed an extra twenty personal requirements based on personality and other esoteric factors such as achievement and dominance. This led to the construction of a hierarchy of needs by Maslow (1970), satisfying both. Maslow described a person`s need for survival, safety, love and belonging, esteem and finally at the highest level, the need for self-actualisation. These concepts are important to brain memory because, each event is given a value and level of priority by the individual rated according to his level of self-interest, which is based on the needs and drives he personally has. This value is then stored in the emotional tag, and can dictate which actions are followed when the event or information is recalled at a later date.       

how emotions effect the different brain memory stages

    Emotions and emotional state can affect every stage of the brain memory mechanism and hence, any manipulation of the systems can have wide-ranging effects on the learning process.

    In the input stage, the first stage of the learning process, then emotions and emotional state can affect the individual in both of the ways described above. Selecting which events are inputted influences what is ultimately learnt. This is achieved by for example, affecting the real-time OWL by choosing events such as those that promote a positive personal response (could be by choosing objects of one`s favourite colour or objects that are familiar rather than unfamiliar) or have links to pleasurable previous experiences (positive emotional tags).  Manipulation of such selection can occur by listening or watching others for example, a situation reflected in the case of empathy or being ordered by someone. It can also be affected by the general ambiance of the external environment, such as smells or greenery, which lends weight to the view that the background during the learning process should also be considered.    

   Personal experience shows that current emotional state reflected by the OWL can affect the efficiency of the recall process just like it can for the input brain memory stage. For example, fear can diminish the success of certain types of recall, e.g. problem solving, but have no effect on others such as bike riding; and the relaxation state makes the individual more receptive to recall. The effect of tiredness and various stages of the oestrous cycle are both well known in changing the OWL state sufficiently to affect recall capability. Therefore, the emotional state can have an affect on the efficacy of the recall process. The task at hand and the success at which that task is being handled will determine whether the emotional state remains with the dopamine-based system being dominate, or whether the fear state will be induced so that changes in quality and quantity of incoming information will take place.

   The other way in which emotional state can alter the recall process is through emotional tag reactivation. Recall of the emotional tag when information is recalled can lead to emotional responses associated with that information at the time of learning. Psychologists call this contextual memory and this type of memory includes mood, level of alertness and feelings. Research by Wiseman and Tulving (1976) showed that the efficiency of brain memory retrieval could depend on whether the same internal and external contexts were available. The responses may not be in keeping with the real-time external environment. For example, just thinking about a horrible experience can lead to the heart pounding even though the event is not real and the person is totally safe.

   Both the positive and negative emotional tags have their uses in recall. Positive tags (i.e. those that induce the dopamine-based system and gatekeeper thalamus inhibition) are required to give an individual his personal values, as well as determining what gives him pleasure. Therefore, recall allows previous experiences to determine the value (´emotional worth`) of the event being encountered in ´real-time`. Personal experience shows that individual values can change and this is possible with the input, storage and recall of emotional tags with the appropriate information. The continual re-adjustment of ´emotional tags` brings about in the case of highly pleasurable events a curious outcome. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that such events when repeated fail to bring the same level of pleasure as the original event and it is thought that habit and routine in the same way is detrimental to the ´emotional` memory system. Humans constantly strive to change habit and need constant challenges because they need to keep the fear and pleasure systems active. Therefore, although an event may be stored with an ´emotional tag`, the adjustment of the tag at future re-encounters ensures that the brain continues to work at peak efficiency.

   Fear tags need no explanation when considering recall. The incoming information itself does not indicate a pain response, but the emotional tag reactivation by activation of the stored memory does. Self-experience shows that an event that leads to the activation of a fear emotional tag will induce a series of ´fight or flight` responses built in to secure the safety of the individual, independent of the ´real-time` emotional state. This type of automatic response is behaviourally easy to recognise, e.g. heart leaps at a shadow or pulse races at a noise, and just like pleasure tags, these tags can also be adjusted either positively (fear lessened) or negatively (fear heightened) to match ´real-time` events. In fact, this capability is used to counteract fear tags, which are emotionally and physically draining on an individual. For example, psychologists can use conditioning; hypnotists can use positive associations; and self-induced inner speech can overcome negativity.

   Unfortunately, not all situations involving memory recall are simple cases of remembering stored experiences spurred from real-time sensory events. Sometimes, the remembered material does not completely fulfil the task at hand as is demonstrated by the example of trying to recognise an unknown object. In these cases, a roller coaster of emotions can occur from the beginning of the task to its end – mild panic as the individual recognises that he does not know something to relief and happiness when the task is successfully concluded. These emotional changes although annoying accompany the necessary alterations in other cognitive systems, such as the attentional system required to bring about an adaptation of the approach to the task in order that a solution is found. In the case of the unrecognised object, the mild panic feeling is accompanied by changes in quality and quantity of incoming information induced by the attentional system. For example, instead of looking at detail, then the event characteristics concentrated on will be the basic shape and colour of the object and comparisons to known objects will be made at this level first. Successful completion of the task, in this case satisfactory identification of the object, will lead to a shift from the heightened fear/panic state to the more relaxed state brought about by a shift back to the dopamine-based emotional brain system. Feelings of relief and happiness accompany the biochemical changes.

   In even more complicated recall situations where no clear solution is obtained and decision-making may have to take place, then emotions and emotional state play roles in every stage of the recall process. A full description of the process can be seen in the accompanying site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, but  again to summarise there is a roller coaster of emotional feelings experienced. These changes accompany the attentional system adaptations to the demands of the task.

   As an example, emotions and emotional state can play a role in decision-making at the end of the recall process. Here, real-time emotional state and stored emotional values are in competition with logic and fact. ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box` describes two sets of decision-making methods with emotional state involved in both: ´heart` methods (emotional state and tag evaluation) and ´head` methods (risk assessment involving the noradrenaline-based system). Decision-making based on the heart is suggested as being akin to choosing a scenario where self-interest is the primary factor in determining which path is followed, i.e. emotional values take priority over facts. This can be amply demonstrated by the example of mother love where the love for a child takes priority over the mother`s self-interest. Whatever the content of the information, the ´option` chosen is the one that has the emotional value of the required calibre. This probably means the emotional values dictated by the hypothesised sliding scale are the determining criteria, with the single negative value taking priority over those of pleasure. This type of decision-making is supported by the psychologists` theories such as Anderson`s rational-emotional model (2003) and the social functionalist approach (Tetlock, 2002).

   The alternative method of decision-making based on the ´head` is suggested as making decisions based on facts and logic and instead of comparing the emotional worth of the available events then a comparison of the factual ´worth` of the different options is made. Hence, there is a ´mathematical-type` basis to this decision-making process and this may not be so visible or so instantaneous as decisions based on emotional factors. I have suggested that the psychologists views on decision-making can be divided ultimately into three techniques based on frequency, utility and risk with the ideal solution demonstrating high probability, high utility and low risk/high reward. In an attempt to marry these psychologists views to a feasible biochemical mechanism relating to neuronal firing, decisions made by the ´head` could be said to be based on the strength of neuronal activation (frequency/probability), the strength of similarity of characteristics (utility) and the strength of emotional response (risk). Strength in all cases means not exact mathematical numbers, but more rough approximations like, for example a show of hands, degree of lighting, or overall impression. 

   Risk can be calculated using the strength of emotional response and can be re-defined as the assessment of the chance of reward or loss being received. Decision-making seeks to maximise reward (happiness) and minimise loss (stress) and therefore, the emotional strength of each possible option is calculated according to that described for self-interest. The values obtained from each option are compared and that producing the highest value (reward or loss) indicates the most ideal solution. The link between risk and emotional strength is abundant with some linking neurotransmitter effects to loss and reward (Morgan et al. 2006 – the administration of ecstasy makes it less likely to determine between reward and loss) and others linking brain areas involved in the emotional system (Wallis, 2006 - subjective value of an outcome is computed by the orbitofrontal cortex, an area of the prefrontal cortex).  

influencing the emotional system to aid learning  

   Now we know how emotions and emotional state affect brain memory we can devise methods for optimising them so that learning efficiency is improved. Some methods have already been mentioned above in the explanation of this particular system, but basically, influences can be divided into groups: those that affect the fundamental physiology of the brain and its interrelating systems and those that have a psychological influence.

Some influences on the fundamental physiology are:

1)       Affecting the basic physical structure and functioning of certain areas such as the basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex. Changes can occur due to physical damage (e.g. stroke, injury), advancing age, in mental disorders and by substance administration. These may induce changes in emotional state that may be evident from increased aggression, depression or anxiety for example. Possible remedial treatment can involve drug administration, but this has to be prescribed and controlled by a medical professional. As described in the introduction, the brain is an organic living body part with complicated and inter-related systems and factors that can affect one system positively, can affect others to the detriment of the individual. Therefore, self-medication should be avoided. Most physical changes of this nature are not under conscious control.

2)       Physiological changes accompanied by emotional effects can be seen with some circadian rhythms such as the oestrous cycle and sleep-wake cycle. Since drug-taking will disrupt these most natural of rhythms, the only advice is to ´play to one`s strengths`, i.e. if you know that when you are tired you tend to be irritable, then avoid acting or making decisions for example that reflect your general annoyance. The phasic nature of such systems means that there are periods of high and low performance and these can be catered to accordingly.

3)       Negative effects of stress on fundamental physiology, reflected by emotional state (increased levels of aggression, impatience, anxiety for example), can be helped by the reduction of stress in the person`s daily life, e.g. instigation of meditation and relaxation programmes, change in diet, work and sleep habits.

Some influences on the psychological effects are:

1)      Personal values can be influenced by a re-assessment of one`s approach to life and way of thinking. Maslow`s hierarchy of needs and drives begins with the need for survival (e.g. fulfilling the physiological requirements for sleep, food etc.), then need for safety, need for love and longing, need for esteem and ends with the need for self-actualisation (discovering interests and potential etc.). Personal values, including likes and dislikes reflects one`s own needs and drives and sometimes these become rigid, routine, dictated by others and probably not optimal for the individual himself. Reassessment of these needs can lead to a re-setting of personal values, which as it has been shown can affect many aspects of the learning and recall process.

2)      The way one acts and feels is not only determined by the situation and previous experiences, but also by the person`s personality. This will be discussed in more depth later, but for now personality influences the emotions and emotional state in response to real-time external events. For example, a shy person will likely experience highly negative emotions when confronted by a total stranger on a dark night. Doing things out of character, increasing self-confidence or self-trust, can stimulate a reassessment of the emotions felt and values formed. In the same vein, doing things that stimulate or that are new rather than those that are routine will re-introduce new emotional responses and new values as the worth of the novel event is compared to those already stored.

3)      As already discussed and important in the learning mechanism advocated here, language can have a strong influence on emotions and emotional state. Words have meanings and these can be used to increase positive feelings, displace negative ones and in general influence how and what we learn. The use of inner speech to stimulate and calm is well known and a prime example of conscious control exerted on learning.

Ways to re-adjust emotional worth specifically are discussed later in the section on personality, but I hope for now it is clear that emotions and emotional state are important factors in learning and memories.

LIFESTYLE FACTORS

   There are probably not many biological systems that are not influenced either directly or indirectly by lifestyle and brain memory is no exception. We have already seen how memory can be affected by emotions and emotional state and therefore, one lifestyle factor, i.e. mental attitude, has already been discussed. For the sake of simplicity, we should think of learning and brain memory being positively influenced by a good lifestyle and vice versa and therefore, the efficiency of the memory mechanism can be aided by the individual striving to live as healthily as possible. However, just like any other physiological system, there are probably more specific lifestyle factors that can influence, but although promoted as advantageous, they are often the subject of much debate amongst scientists and others working in the medical field. As far as this work is concerned, lifestyle factors are considered as influencing one of two physiological systems required for the brain memory mechanism: the emotional system described above and the attentional system, which will be discussed in more detail later when required basic skills are considered.

   Lifestyle factors that can be described as having more specific effects on learning and brain memory are:

a) certain foods

b) sleep patterns

c) social interaction and mental stimulation

d) learning routine and environment

´learning enhancing` foods?

    Some of the foods said to be linked with physiological systems required in learning and recall, such as the nervous system or stimulation of the brain; or required skills, such as attention are:

angelica (stimulates the brain), apricots (helps the nervous system), aubergine (calms the nerves), avocado (good for the nervous system), banana (restores the equilibrium of the nervous system), borage (natural ´pep` pill), chamomile (relaxant), cherries (calming effect on the nervous system), dates (combats tiredness and fatigue), figs (strengthens nervous system and brain), ginseng (combats mental tension, stress, tiredness and fatigue), grapes (good for treating tiredness, fatigue and the nervous system), lettuce (calming effect on nervous system), mint (good for nervous system and a sedative), almonds (good for the brain and nerve impulses), plums (good for treating tiredness), poppy seeds (relaxing and sedative), rosemary (strengthens the nervous system, good against tiredness and fatigue), sage (good against fatigue and depression),  and spinach ( good for nervous system, treating depression and fatigue).

    Although these specific foods may or may not aid learning and cognitive performance, they should not be relied on to do so and neither should alternative therapies such as herbalism (e.g. gingko) or homoeopathy (e.g. Argentum nitricum). A good diet and sufficient fluids, especially water should be the standard for everyone, but to help specifically during the learning session then a little fruit if hunger is an issue and lots of drinking water should be at hand. Sweet or sugar substitute drinks or those containing caffeine should be avoided not only to safeguard the teeth, but also to keep attention concentrated on the task.

sleep patterns

    The sayings, ´Why don`t you sleep on it?` and ´Everything will look better in the morning,` reflect the recognition that sleep is necessary for certain cognitive functions and it has been shown that in the case of long-term memory formation that tiredness and sleep deprivation have recognised negative effects. The natural sleep-wake cycle is one of most important circadian rhythms in humans with individuals sleeping 7-8 hours and the rest of the cycle spent in a wakeful state. Alertness follows a set pattern - increasing after sleep to a maximum between 3pm and 7pm and then decreasing to the following sleep cycle. This pattern of ´alertness` is mirrored by changes in cognitive performance (Blake, 1967).  Klein and Armitage (1979) described a 96-minute cycle called the Basic Rest-Activity Cycle (BRAC), which was suggested as being related to the one seen in sleep (Lloyd, 2004). Support for this work came from Carlson (1986) who found numerous cycles of around 90 minutes in length all controlling mechanisms associated with the lower brain area, the medulla. This natural ´clock` appears to control a pattern of regular changes in ´alertness` and is associated with activity during the day, as well as NREM and REM sleep cycles at night. It also controls body temperature. The control of the natural sleep-wake cycle appears to be dependent on the environment and is governed by an internal clock thought to be a small group of cells in the forebrain, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN).

   So, what does the sleep-wake cycle have to do with learning? We all know that tiredness can have an affect on cognition and brain memory. When we are tired, it seems more difficult to learn something and recall needs a certain level of determination, unless the information is vitally important for our survival. The effects of sleep and tiredness on the various systems described as being involved in brain memory are listed in Table 1. As it is natural for individuals to sleep and there is a circadian rhythm to the sleep-wake cycle then there also must be natural changes in the level of performance of certain systems responsible for cognition.

Table 1 – Effect of sleep and tiredness on brain memory mechanisms

 

SYSTEM

SLEEP STATES

TIRED CONDITION

Sensory input

No visual input, but input of other senses.

Dulled senses. Stress hormones release leads to change in sensory abilities (sleep deprivation). Blurred vision.

Emotional system

Emotions only through dreaming.

Irritated, lack of patience. Small degree of paranoia. Lack of motivation.

Attentional system

Unfocused attention on sensory stimulus other than visual – shifts in attention and waking state induced by stimuli, e.g. smell of smoke. 

Difficulty in focusing. Impaired sustained attention.

Brain memory system

Believed helps brain memory process – recall, learning etc. - ´sleep on it`

Difficulty in learning. Sleep-deprived people worse at remembering how to do newly learnt tasks. Disorganised speech. Poor performance on monotonous and uninteresting tasks. Impaired spatial working memory.

 

    The effects on cognitive ability possibly come from the action of another neurotransmitter, serotonin (5HT), which plays at least four roles in the brain memory process. This neurotransmitter is said to:

1) influence the overall firing of particular areas, e.g. raphe nuclei and prefrontal cortex, some firing of which may be related to the sleep-wake cycle.

2) play a role in brain memory by causing changes in the visual system or other sensory systems. For example, LSD is a potent hallucinogenic drug and serotonin receptor binding agent and causes visual system disturbances.

3) have an affect on brain memory by changing focus and attentional state. It is known that tiredness alters a person`s ability to focus or pay attention. This effect could be due to the action of the prefrontal cortex (Evers et al. 2005), where there is a link between the level of task relevant material and activity, and firing due to serotonergic binding or the serotonergic affect on dopamine release (Pehek et al. 2006).

4) have an affect on brain memory by changing the emotional state (described in 2.1.1). A shift from the dopamine-based brain system to the noradrenaline-based system could be induced if the fear mechanism is activated due to tiredness and this results in the failure to learn.  Prefrontal cortex activity would be altered by the serotonin and this would influence emotional and attentional states with corresponding changes in cognitive and memory processes. Therefore, changes in emotional state mirroring changes in serotonin binding and prefrontal cortex activity may result in memory deficits.

   Although acetylcholine, dopamine and noradrenaline act directly on the brain memory mechanism, serotonin probably acts by indirectly affecting one of them, or by binding to receptors that can bring about changes in one of them. It can be suggested therefore, that this is a kind of safety mechanism, or ´back door` by which the neurotransmitters can affect the brain memory mechanism, thus increasing the chances by which memories can be made or affected.

   The main function of sleep however comes from its requirement for the formation of the long-term memory stores. Research has shown that it is the NREM stages of sleep that are important for brain memory because it is thought that during these stages ´housekeeping` functions of nerve cells takes place, e.g. energy stores (glycogen) are replenished in neurons and glial cells, receptors are inserted in membranes and synapses are strengthened - all functions proposed in the brain memory mechanism advocated here as being required for the long-term storage of brain memories and part of the multiple cellular changes thought to take place (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`).

   This hypothesis is supported by earlier psychologists` views on the role of sleep. The restoration/recovery theory (Oswald, 1980) proposed different functions for the two types of sleep. Oswald suggested that during NREM sleep, bodily processes are renewed, and during REM sleep brain processes are restored. Alternatively, Lawton (2004) suggested that during the NREM stages the brain repairs the damage done by free radicals, a view supported by evidence that animals with high metabolic rates and hence high radical damage sleep more (Allison and Cicchetti, 1976). Another view is that NREM stages leads to the topping up of glycogen stores in the glial cells that supply the neurons with energy when required. When these are run down they must be replenished so the brain goes into a quiet state (NREM) and neurons hyperpolarize. In the REM stage however, potassium ions are pumped back into the neurons thus polarising the cells and ´switching on` the cortex. Thus, the NREM stages were suggested as the ´sleep periods` responsible for replenishing proteins, strengthening synapses, inserting receptors, and topping up glycogen, all so-called ´housekeeping functions` and part of the cellular changes required to convert short-term memory stores into more permanent ones.

    Therefore, the evidence linking sleep with learning and memories is substantial and so sleep and sleep patterns should be regarded as important to the efficacy of this cognitive function. Regular sleep of adequate length and power naps if necessary are required for the brain memory mechanism to function at an ideal level. There are many different methods to improve the quality and quantity of sleep and for the individual to optimise his sleep-wake cycle. Some methods are old wives tales; some are medically recognised techniques and involve medication or alternative therapies; some require a life-style change, but for learning to successfully take place on a regular scale, the individual should heed his body signals and strive for a routine sleep pattern that is optimal for him. 

social interaction and mental stimulation

    Brain memories are derived from real-time experiences and form the basis of behaviour, decision-making, creativity and a wide number of other activities undertaken by the individual. Therefore, the quality and quantity of real-time experiences occuring as part of the lifestyle of the individual affect the store of brain memories available to that individual at a later date. The ´store` denoted as the knowledge base will be discussed from a content point of view in the next section, but here we look at how lifestyle presents the opportunity for real-time experiences. According to the brain memory mechanism hypothesis advocated here, two areas can be influenced by the individual: the level of social interaction and the amount of mental stimulation.

    With regards to social interaction, you are probably thinking, ´How does my conversation with my next-door neighbour or my game at the badminton club affect my learning ability?` and you would be right in thinking that in terms of learning mechanism it does not. However, if we look at what we`ve learnt or which brain memories we`ve used in both events then we can see that those two examples of social interaction have huge indirect effects. For example, in the case of the conversation with the neighbour, I have probably empathised, imparted local gossip, obeyed social etiquette, expressed wishes and intent, and recalled in detail my latest activities, as well as paying attention and listening to his news and gossip, agreed or given advice using my own experiences and this probably all in the space of five minutes. The advantage from this five minute chat is also emotional since I have laughed, felt good and look forward to our next meeting. In the case of my badminton game, I have followed both game and social rules, employed hand-eye-limb co-ordination, spoke to my opponent and been through a roller-coaster of emotions due to the point scoring as the game progresses. Therefore, social interaction whether with family members, friends, work colleagues, or strangers is important in the provision and use of not only informational experience, but also  emotional experience. Experiences of others provide additional important information that can be used in tasks faced by the individual and in decision-making for example where the opinions of others is one method for constructing possible options.

    Essentially, western culture strongly supports social interaction, e.g. sports clubs, bars, offices, factories, canteens, but our ways of working (smaller firms, home office for example), family relationships (such as working away from home, less contact to family members because of distance or disagreements) and our hobby activities (e.g. greater use of computer social networking sites, jogging alone) are changing the form of this social interaction and even reducing it. Therefore, the quality and quantity of the information obtained from others is also being affected and this in turn affects our behaviour and cognitive functionality.

   There is no point in stressing about social interaction dictated by circumstance, e.g. if you spend two hours on the road travelling to and fro from work, then only a drastic change in transport method is likely to bring you into contact with more people. However, some circumstances can be changed and should be if possible, e.g. substitution of an evening spent on the computer communicating electronically with friends for a pub quiz night, or a game of golf; or picking up the phone and talking to that aunt, who you`ve meaning to telephone since Christmas; or if you are elderly and live alone, going to social events held by the local community centre. Small changes can have big effects.

   The benefits of social interaction even with strangers outweighs the effort put in and helps learning and thinking in several different ways. It can provide more information than gained purely from ones own experiences, such as others may give alternative ways to solve problems or give guidance to fulfil tasks and in the case of decision-making considering other peoples reactions will open a set of options not available if only information is taken into account. Any improvement to take advantage of these benefits has to be personal and the only advice given can be to have good, hard look at the lifestyle led regarding social interaction, see where there is room for change and do it.

    The same can be said for the other topic that can be affected by lifestyle, that of mental stimulation. If I take a good, hard look at my levels of mental stimulation during a normal day, I would see a range between high points of intense mental activity and low points of ´vegging` - no thinking, just watching. I would also see that within this range I could pep up some of the lower levels with the addition of a little mental stimulation in the form of activities that induce me to think a bit, such as learning a new hobby or a foreign language, listening to the radio or watching a documentary, discussing a news topic with others. This is not to say that relaxing is not beneficial, because it is, but like most pleasurable things, too much ´relaxing` is neither mentally nor physically favourable.

    Just like social interaction, improving the levels of mental stimulation comes from a look at the lifestyle and the insertion of activities that can be carried out safely and advantageously during the periods of low mental stimulation, leaving room, however, for relaxation. Ways to improve mental stimulation are discussed in the next section on improving the knowledge base, but it should be recognised that increasing thinking and learning induces cognitive advantages far above that of just increasing the amount of facts one has. It helps in the approach to problem-solving, decision-making, levels of creativity as well as having positive emotional effects.

    Therefore, it can be summarised that where possible an individual can aid his learning and brain memory methods by ensuring that social interaction and periods of mental stimulation are well-balanced and optimal for his situation. This may mean that a little effort has to be spent to introduce more social contact or reducing those ´vegging` periods, but the cognitive benefits are wide-ranging.

learning routine and environment

    Many books on improving brain memory advocate a learning routine, which includes a specific location with specific tools. However, we know that most learning situations require learning whilst on the train for example, standing and at any time of the day – hardly ideal circumstances if a person has to sit at his desk and have his favourite pen and snack nearby. Therefore, although a learning routine in a specific environment may be possible in the case of educational-type learning, e.g. for school or for the job, in other circumstances learning routine means more the learning method and not location or tools specifically. Learning methods are discussed in later sections, but in those circumstances where learning is controlled, structured and under the sole influence of the individual himself, then an ideal learning routine can be formulated. This routine is personal and requires the individual to optimise it himself. Over the years and with experience favoured learning routines and environment probably have developed, but a re-assessment can increase efficiency. Topics that should be addressed are: 

1)      Environment  - this means everything that is around you, whether outside or inside, whether noisy or quiet and includes temperature, lighting, background noise, smells etc. Personal preferences come to the fore if structured learning is indicated, but this should mean at least a comfortable temperature and adequate lighting. The subject of background noise is entirely personal, with some people preferring to learn with music playing and others preferring the quiet. The measure of success of learning dictates which conditions are the most advantagious.

2)      Position  – whether lying on the bed or floor, or sitting at a desk, the location has to be the best for the person learning. The only stipulations are that there is no physical discomfort or long-term damage from spending long periods of time in that position and that it allows plenty of space for computer, paper, pens, books etc. to be laid out, consulted and worked on with ease.

3)      Food and snacks – some people prefer to have a plentiful supply of food or nibbles during their learning periods, whereas others prefer nothing. The only recommendation is that there is plenty of fluid available and preferably water instead of highly sweetened, caffeinated drinks.

4)      Time – not everyone is ready to learn at six in the morning, or capable of learning efficiently at midnight. The specific time of day optimal for learning is up to the individual and this is often not possible, even in structured learning situations (e.g. all-day cramming means that some periods of the day are more optimal than others for any specific individual; or the availability of library facilities restricts the favourable learning periods for the night owl). Only through practice will the most beneficial times of the day be identified for any one person and these should be adhered to if possible especially when a large amount of learning has to be carried out. The only conditions laid down are with the length of any one study period and with the revision schedule. Regarding the former, it is thought that a single period should be between 20 and 45 minutes long, followed by a short break. The amount of attention that has to be given to the material, the degree of difficulty and the physiological state of the learner are all factors which determine whether the learning period is at the shorter end of this scale or not. As far as revision schedule is concerned, this will be discussed in more detail in later sections where specific methods are given, but it follows those ideas given by Buzan (1974) in that the first revision should take place 10 minutes after learning, followed by one hour, one day etc. It is important to note down the revision schedule as it is often forgotten in the rush to learn as much material as possible (in the Establishment of Purpose, see later for an example). Revision is just as important for the success of the learning as the initial uptake of material.

5)      Material – this topic depends on individual preferences. I know that to learn anything quickly I am better when I have written it down in my own short form and hence, my learning routine is better when I have pen and paper available. Others however, prefer to hear things and so the pen and paper requirement is not necessary. Therefore, the material needed to learn effectively has to be identified by the individual. If pen and paper is your modus operendi then the vast range of stationery material in todays times is ideal, but it should be remembered that coloured pens and post-it notes do not take the place of good and accurate notes, they just make them easier to learn.  Changes to the content and format of the material will be discussed in more detail later in the suggested methods and this takes into account the preference of the reader here for language and words.

Therefore, effective learning periods means that the ideal environment and routines have to be identified first by the individual himself. They may be suggested by others, but what is beneficial for one may not be another. The measure of the success of any routine or environment is the ease at which something is learnt, the time taken and the level of recall. Therefore, one has to accept that routine and environment are entirely personal and can change with age, experience and other factors and therefore, the measure of success should be constantly monitored and changes accepted if they need to be made.  

KNOWLEDGE BASE

    The knowledge base a person has influences real-time and future behaviour, as well as personality and cognitive functions, including memory. It is the culmination of experiences and thinking stored long-term and is individual, adaptable and affected by whether or not we can control what goes in it. By this I mean that certain experiences are required to be remembered because these are topics that are necessary for our survival. For example, knowledge relating to our physiological condition (e.g. food types necessary for good health), social situation (e.g. manners), school or job-related information (e.g. history dates, car engine parts for mechanics) must be learnt whether we want to or not. Expansion of these topics occurs through exposure and need.

   Other topics though can also widen this obligatory knowledge base and these are topics that are under the control of the individual. Several factors can lead to an expansion of this part of the knowledge base, such as ability, interest and situation. Ability can determine the amount of information taken in and the form it is in. It is clear that if you do not have to learn something, and if you find it difficult that the temptation to give up and do something else is much greater than if you find it easy. Interests of the individual can be varied and a person can cultivate hobbies and voluntary pursuits in areas where his abilities lie. For example, a person with high physical-kinaesthetic intelligence is likely to develop interests with a physical nature, such as playing sport or dancing, whereas the person with high musical intelligence is likely to play a musical instrument or sing. Interests not only reflect the persons desire to do something, but also the time, money and facilities available and this can be linked to a person`s situation, which is a third factor influencing the part of the knowledge base under the control of the individual.

   So, the question is why is the knowledge base so important? Apart from the obvious that what we know leads to our behaviour and make us who we are, from a brain memory perspective it the source of material and provider of solutions when the information available does not directly answer the problem at hand. A broad knowledge base will allow the individual to use ideas and information from a wide source, directly and indirectly related to the task at hand. This forms the basis of brain storming or creative thinking.

   Therefore, having established that our knowledge base will favour our abilities, interests and circumstances and that a wide base is advantageous in helping us live our lives, make decisions and solve problems, we should be inspired to broaden it if possible. Methods to improve our information cache include:

1)      expanding the knowledge of already stored topics. For example, by looking up the topic in an encyclopaedia, we may find unknown or related areas not already learnt. We can also use the various forms of media available, e.g. documentary programmes on the television or Internet search engines, or use the expertise of other people to specifically select areas that will boost information. Association of the material to what is already known not only widens the base, but also cements the stored knowledge further.

2)      introducing new topics and interests. This can be done by randomly selecting topics found in an encyclopaedia, at the library, at museum exhibitions, choosing topics using other abilities or from other people for example. By linking this new information with what is known (e.g. by finding similarities or differences), then not only is the knowledge base widened, but also the stored material is strengthened. This method is probably harder than (1), but to make it easier, then a few tips should be considered. These are: not all new topics are of interest and so the person should be willing to try out many things before anything is found that he/she wishes to delve into deeper; low-level knowledge should be started with first and the complexity built up – expertise needs to be worked at (Why not look at children`s books on a topic first rather than third year degree level material?); perseverance is the key, not only in the face of family and friends who might query this ´new you`, but also with finding the time and commitment.

Therefore to summarise, the knowledge base possessed by the individual will affect not only behaviour, but how and what things are learnt. Any improvement in the stored material can be beneficial and this can be consciously achieved by expanding topics already known or by introducing new ones.  This requires time, commitment and effort, but advantages of a wider information cache can be soon observed.

BASIC SKILLS INVOLVED IN LEARNING

   In the previous sections we have seen how physiological factors and knowledge base of an individual can affect what and how things are learnt. This section looks at the basic skills required to carry this out according to the brain memory mechanism given in more detail in the companion site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`. Ways in which the individual can influence his learning efficiency via these skills are also indicated. The topics discussed are:

sensory activation

   Sensory activation in this context means the initial capture of information from the external environment according to the presence of appropriate sensory organs and its transference to higher brain areas, where the information is then identified, recognised, interpreted etc. This section does not discuss this perception level, but concentrates on the initial uptake and how the reader can improve it. Since this book is for those of us who prefer to learn with words, the discussion will focus on visual and auditory information only.

visual pathway

    I could describe the visual pathway in detail here, but what is important here is that as far as learning is concerned, three factors concerning the visual system are of interest and these are:

  • only events in the visual field (the area ´covered` by the eyes) are processed and can be learnt;
  • the quality and quantity of the information within this visual field can be adapted according to attentional state;
  • and lastly, visual features such as colour, shape and movement show a priority, which can be used to the individual`s advantage in a learning situation.

    The first factor, that only events within the visual field can be learnt if the conditions are correct means that activation of certain brain areas leads to movement of the individual`s head and eyes so that the object remains in the centre of the field of vision. This counteracts any movement of the object in the external environment and could explain why body position appears not to be important for visual memory. Essentially what is being remembered is only what is in the centre of the visual field, independent of where that field may be. This supports the early hypotheses of psychologists, Helmholtz (1866) and Sherrington (1906), who proposed that it is this control of head and eye movement that forms the basis of visual memory.

    Once in the visual field, not all information is learnt and the biochemical brain memory mechanism advocated here suggests that the objects have to be ´held` within this visual field to enable the shifts from these temporary images to long-term memories to occur, i.e. learning. This is supported by work by Treisman (1964), who showed that the temporary visual images decayed within 0.5 seconds unless continual activation of the visual pathway occurred via this ´holding` mechanism. 

    The second important factor for visual learning is that the quality and quantity of information available within this visual field is dependent on attentional state. It appears that fear can change the quality and quantity of information via alterations in the attentional system (see ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box` for more intense discussion), but since it is not advantageous to have learning taking place always with the learner in a state of panic or fear then other factors that can have a positive effect on both quality and quantity should be considered. This will be discussed in more detail in the next section  on the role of attentional system during learning. However, one such method is indicated in the case of speed-readers. Specific training can affect how wide the central part of their visual field is so that speed readers can perceive more in any one ´look`. This is related to work carried out by Miller (1956) who investigated the amount of information determined at any one time. It was originally thought that these short-term images were limited to seven chunks of information (Miller, 1956), then five to nine chunks, but now it is thought that the number of chunks can vary, because of the material for example. Therefore, an individual could improve his learning efficiency by increasing visual field size and/or increasing the amount of material learnt at one time. Methods will be described later improving visual efficiency, and hence learning. 

    The third and most important feature relating to visual learning is the content of the event. The companion site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, introduces the idea of priority of features in learning and recall. It is suggested that shape is an important characteristic of an object or objects as shown by the use of silhouettes or shadows in identification.  Therefore, shape has to be one event characteristic stored in the brain memory of that event and hence, the visual system uses its specific physiology to bring this about. The object in the external environment is translated by the visual pathway into a temporary neuronal firing grouping representing the image (dictated the iNCA in the mechanism) and the overall shape (lines, edges and corners) and patterns are conserved by the activation of specific cells and specific pathways. Obviously, the more information in the image, the better the visual memory content, hence detail is linked with image complexity and hence, is strived at once the information about the basic shape is gathered. 

    Another important event characteristic that has to be stored in the brain memory is colour, which is first perceived at the initial visual sensory organ level by the cone photoreceptors in the retina. Colour has a physiological pathway separate to that of shape and is an important feature because it helps to recognise/identify/distinguish something (colour speeds up perceptual recognition of objects, Moore and Price, 1999) as well as aiding figure/ground segmentation and being a good indicator of movement (eyes are sensitive to very small changes in colour due to movement or other causes). Colour like shape has important ramifications for memory, since in the selection of an object to be held in the centre of the field of vision, individuals are likely to notice colour differences first and ignore changes in colour due to position or sunlight for example (colour constancy), as well as being unlikely to accept unnatural or different colours (e.g. less likely to accept orange peas).

    Another event characteristic stored in the temporary brain memories is that of movement, an important characteristic not only for the recording of sequences, but also for object identification through the determination of function. Humans possess the ability to quickly detect movement under various conditions. An experiment by Johansson, von Hofsten and Jansson, 1980 showed that individuals could identify someone moving within 1/5th of a second. Direction (up-down, left-right etc.), speed (fast, slow-motion) and distance from and location in the visual field (height above eye-level, eye-level, below eye-level etc.) can also be detected.

    Not only does the visual system cope with all these variations, the brain memory system also records it in such a way that the information is useful in the future. We know that movement must be stored in the temporary visual images, since we have an awareness of how something moves. We may not be able to draw it (always drawing stationary images), but we can describe it using words after a full initial image is recorded. We literally can only see the beginning and perhaps the end; the rest, although obviously there, cannot be ´seen` (only ´snap-shot` images), which implies that at the higher levels of the brain cortical pathway only the ´changes` in the moving image are seen. Therefore, movement can be re-defined as shape change with time and hence, from a brain memory point of view, recording movement requires the linking of one neuronal memory grouping representing the image to the next, a time unit later.

    ´Outside the box` thinking (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`) suggests that movement of the individual or the object is registered in the brain just like with the natural visual saccades. Saccades cause the visual field to flick between objects or features of an object within the same event and bring about an image that has a number of core features and a number of variable features (designated ´wobble/blur`) that are dependent on the view being observed at that time. This is a ´device` for either storing different views of the same object accumulated over time for example, or for counteracting the neuronal cell firing stoppages due to extended usage so that the required sustained activation of the relevant visual cortical areas is achieved.  In real-life, saccades may not play such an important role because although in the laboratory it is possible to present an individual with a single dominant object, in real-life more complicated and fast-moving views are experienced. Therefore, the need to create change using saccades may be superfluous.

    Most natural views are a cacophony of shapes and according to the above explanation only those objects in the centre of the field of vision take priority. In the case of views, the visual system has developed methods to cope with the huge numbers of objects before it. It is likely that focus shifts from object to object or perhaps quadrant to quadrant, depending on the individual. Single objects in such a case may dominate the vision physically or there maybe a conscious decision or subconscious decision to allow one object to dominate. There are many reasons why such a decision is made, such as size (big versus small), colour (vibrant vs muted), emotional reasons (like vs hate), shape (round vs square) and pattern (large patterned vs small detail). Advertisers use this conscious and subconscious visual decision-making machinery to their own advantage wanting to steer our visual fields to their advertised products. Also, in recent times the surge in the use of the new generation computer games where the role-playing individual sees his computer screen as a ´view` from his own eyes may be attributed to a company`s success in influencing our fields of vision with its computer graphics.

    Features less important are location and size. Location can be either absolute or relative. Absolute location of an object in the external environment is an important feature for action, e.g. ball throwing needs to have the target position pin-pointed exactly. However, in the case of visual memory, absolute location of an object in the external environment is not a necessity, since the head and eyes are moved in order to keep the object in the centre of the visual field. Although it is clear that a centralised location of an object is optimal for visual memory input and steps will be taken by the individual to optimise this, learning can occur independent of an object`s location within the visual field as memories formed under highly emotional circumstances prove.

    Absolute location may not be important for memory, but the relative location of an object is. If we consider that an image is more than one object, the relevant location of each ´chunk` of that image is important for the correct memory representation. This is achieved by the mapping function of the visual system at the higher levels (retinotopy) and synchronicity and connectivity of the firing of participating parts. Relative location is determined by the same process as that for action, i.e. depth perception using monocular and binocular clues.

    Another characteristic less important for memory than for action is that of absolute size. The feature of size is dealt with in brain memory in the same way as location and again absolute size is probably irrelevant, but relative size is important. Absolute size is determined by the shape pathway and relies on initial rod activation ´marking out` the boundaries. For brain memory, the eye prefers to have larger shapes in the centre of the visual field and will move or move it in order to achieve this (e.g. to see a small object, one brings it closer to the eyes). The visual system contains a mechanism for this optimisation, which consists of flattening (far location, smaller object) or fattening (near point, larger size) the lens. This could explain why absolute size is a changeable feature in the memory system. In recall, size of an object is always the same because the cornea/lens size remains same. Therefore, if at the age of two the size of the image in the lens covers 50% of its area then at the age of sixty, it is also going to be 50% of the lens area. The size constancy rule is also clear. This rule defines the tendency for objects to appear the same size whether their size in retinal image is large or small. Just like location, it is more important for visual memory to know an object`s relative size. Objects in a group will be stored with sizes relative to one another. The lens adapts so the objects are the same size in the lens, so whatever the distance is from the person, the lens accommodates so the objects are always in the same place and the same size. This means that the image is constant independent of distance and location.

   Therefore, visual memory begins with sensory activation at the sensory organ level and relies on the physiological structure and functioning of the pathway from organ to higher brain levels to dictate which features of the external event are perceived and recorded. Since sensory activation is this first stage, then it is obvious the better it is then the higher the chance for an effective learning process.

    From this collection of important visual features, there is an order of priority and it is thought that moving events take priority over still/stationary, colour over dark, near events over far and large over small. Therefore, methods to improve visual awareness can take advantage of these physiological subtleties to make learning easier or more effective. Some methods are listed below, which bear in mind the learning preference of the reader of this book. The methods given are intended to stimulate and to be short activities only. Suggested methods are:

1)      Increase visual field by using a method practiced by speed readers. They widen their field of vision by starting with scan-reading smaller words and progressing to larger and larger words.

2)      Follow moving targets with the eyes (or left or right eye). Can use computer games or just watching people etc. move in a crowded area.

3)      Observe a view and look for opposites, e.g. big/small, opaque/transparent.

4)      Do ´Spot the difference` puzzles.

5)      Do ´Spot the object` puzzles.

6)      Match the colours of objects using paint swatches from DIY stores.

7)      Learn magic tricks.

8)      Cover a picture and describe the details of that picture or part of that picture.

9)      Continue patterns.

10)  Flash playing cards in front of you and say what they are (or flash Scrabble letters).

11)  Do mazes.

12)  Do jigsaws.

13)  Find a specified letter or word in a text.

14)  Copy drawings or pictures (whole or in part) accurately.

15)  Do mental arithmetic.

16)  Do Word Searches.

17)  Do ´Join the dot` pictures.

18)  Play computer games.

The following methods need a partner:

1)      Watch the partner perform magic tricks/illusions and try to ascertain how they work.

2)      Play computer games suitable for competing against someone.

3)      Play ´I Spy`. 

4)      From a picture, let one person describe an object or person and the other has to find out what it is by asking questions.

5)      Play memory games, like a tray with 20 objects, a 2 minute look and the tray is removed and the person has to remember the items on the tray.

6)      Play ´Battleships`.

7)      Play ´Snap` and other card games where quick reactions in response to a visual stimulus is required to wín.

 

auditory pathway

    The value of visual memory is unquestionable, but auditory memory, which appears to have lower kudos in the scientific world, is also important. It plays a huge role in our lives and in our relationships with our external and internal environments as shown by, for example, the warning cry, laughter, thunder, and music. For readers of this site it holds special importance in that language relies on auditory participation. Language is not only read or written, but also listened to and spoken, the latter two requiring activation of the auditory pathway.

    Just like with the visual system, a comprehensive description of the auditory pathway is not given here, but instead it can be summarised as beginning with the input of sounds from the external environment via the sensory organ, in this case the ear. The ear is structured to accommodate and define the auditory features and for learning to occur temporary sensory stores are formed in the brain. Sustained activation of these stores leads to permanent storage of the sounds with other sensory information if present (the sNCA) and this occurs at the appropriate higher brain levels. 

    Auditory memory can be said to possess several general characteristics:

1) Auditory memory exists, but is different to visual memory in that a recalled auditory memory cannot be ´imagined`. To explain this, think about a visual memory and if you close your eyes, you can see an image. With an auditory memory, think about the memory and you appear not to hear the original sound, only a ´representation of the sound`. For example if you imagine Pavarotti singing Nessen dorma, you can ´picture` him, see perhaps his mouth move, but the words you hear are only your ´representation` of the words of the aria. Even though you may be able to describe accurately his voice tones and the emotional impression it made on you and you can recognise it if you hear it again, you still cannot actually imagine it from ´memory`, like you can with the visual information. Therefore, ´real-time` input is hearing it, but in ´unreal time` only a ´representation` can be ´heard`.    

2) Auditory memory exists ´out of context` (e.g. recognise someone´s voice even though surroundings are not familiar) and ´in context` (e.g. recognise a particular aria being sung by Pavarotti at a particular concert). This is important for speech. Although nouns are learnt being related to the appropriate visual image, later the words are used in communication when the object probably is not present.  

3) Auditory memory demonstrates, like visual memory, varying levels of priority to sound characteristics. The feature of frequency representing the sound content (pitch) appears to have the highest priority and this is recorded along with a timing/order element that determines how this feature changes with time, e.g. sequences such as music. Intensity (loudness) and absolute location appear not to be important for auditory memory, but are important for auditory perception.

   Therefore, auditory input is perceived by the auditory pathway from the low level sensory organ, the ear, to the higher level cortical areas and there it forms temporary stores, which are shifted to permanent ones by sustained activation of the firing cells. This information can stand alone, or more likely be a part of a multi-sensory record of the event. Short activities to improve auditory awareness and hence learning are given below: 

1)      Singing along with played music, especially if piece is not particularly well known.

2)      Saying tongue twisters or rhymes.

3)      Determining peoples` accents/dialects and/or other speech patterns.

4)      Reading poems.

5)      Playing bingo or similar games where reactions are required in response to auditory signals (simple method - bang on the table when the word ´and` is said in a radio/podcast broadcast).

6)      Guessing the song/piece of music or guessing what comes next.

7)      Altering the volume control on the sound provider, e.g. MP3 player so that you have to strain to hear it.

8)      Increasing the speed at which sound is delivered so you have to concentrate to understand it.

9)      Practicing Morse code or other codes where sound is the key.

10)  Listening to orchestra/group music, e.g. choirs, pop groups so that each instrument/singer/sound can be identified from the others.

11)  Listening to the radio or other equipment where sound is the only sensory input.

12)  Mimicking speech or music from others.

13)  Doing simple mental arithmetic.

14)  In the dark, throw something small and guess where it has landed.

15)  Play any games or sports, or take part in any hobby activity where instructions are spoken and have to be followed to the letter, e.g. yoga.

sensory activation in the case of language

   Each of the four language functions exists due to a mixture of different physiological systems, including the sensory visual and auditory pathways and motor movements. Some of the skills required for successful language function are summarised in Table 2.

 

Table 2 - Skills required for language

 

AREA

SKILLS

GENERAL

Concentration. Ability to focus. Speed of processing. Sequencing. 

LISTENING

 Requires auditory sensory pathway, from ear to brain.

 

Ability to detect different sounds (even small sounds), changes in pitch, tone.

 

Ability to detect pauses, emphasis, rhythm e.g. if question asked.

 

Ability to process incoming information – individual letters, words, sentences (individual vs strings). Understanding of meaning.

 

Ability to store incoming information – individual letters, words, sentences.

 

Ability to disregard dialect, accent, individual pronunciation.

SPEAKING

 Requires presence of relevant physiology, e.g. muscles, bones, throat, voice.

 

Presence of relevant physiology for coordination between brain and organs responsible and coordination within muscle groups.

 

Ability to mimic single or strings of sounds.

 

Ability to pause, change pitch, lay emphasis etc.

 

Ability to access memory – single sounds and strings of sounds.

 

Ability to stimulate change of stored sounds into spoken sounds.

READING

 Requires visual sensory pathway from eyes to brain.

 

Ability to recognise presence of shapes, patterns, gaps etc.

 

Ability to store visual information – strings – associated with or without meaning.

 

´Inner voice`.

 

Ability to relate incoming visual information to stored information.

WRITING

 Requires relevant muscle movements.

 

Visual sensory pathway from eyes to brain with coordinating muscle movements. Ability to subconsciously follow patterns e.g. left to right, automatic writing of letters.

 

´Inner voice`.

 

Ability to process what is required to be written.

 

Ability to access memory single sounds / strings of sounds.

 

Ability to access memory visual letters/ strings of letters.

 

   Since there is interrelation between the four areas, then the different skills must act simultaneously. For example: reading with speaking, e.g. reading out aloud; reading with listening, e.g. listening to tapes whilst reading. Therefore, as far as biochemistry and physiology is concerned, language is challenging because it not only requires the visual and auditory sensory systems, but also motor systems (e.g. for speech). It also rarely exists in the ´single moment in time`-type event as objects do, with sequences instead being the predominant form. Sensory systems must also be capable of perceiving the basic and more advanced forms of the language, as well as using them with or without stimulus from the external environment. For example, the visual system must be capable of detecting the lines, curves and dots that make up the letters of the Germanic language as well as grouping them into syllables, then words and sentences. Linked with the words is the application of common meaning, standard for individuals sharing the same language.

    It is not necessary here to understand fully the biochemical and physiological processes involved in language learning or use, instead to concentrate on why language is important and how to improve it. This is a study designed to help improve learning efficiency of people who prefer to learn with language and therefore, any improvement in the language skills can have a beneficial knock-on effect for learning. Methods to improve such skills are many-fold and some are:

1)      Expand your normal reading or read texts not normally a part of your daily life. Use encyclopaedias or other reference material.

2)      Do crossword puzzles.

3)      Listen to and take part in documentaries, discussions, forums and debates either orally or written.

4)      Play Scrabble and other word-forming games.

5)      Write a diary or write social networking site updates regularly.

6)      Write short fictional stories (30 words or more).

7)      Read a news item and try to formulate a heading. Check against original if available.

8)      Copy sentences either completely or just half and finish it yourself. Compare to original if possible and review success. (Can be carried out on a larger scale by copying half a story and making up your own end, or writing sequels to well-known stories or fairytales for example.)

9)      Learn poems, sayings, quotes, rhymes etc.

10)  Find particular words in a text and replace, e.g. find all nouns and replace with others or small descriptive phrases that mean the same thing.

11)  Learn synonyms, antonyms etc. for common words using a thesaurus.

12)  Make-up spellings for restaurants, animals, jobs etc.

13)  Do Word Searches.

14)  Learn related words by looking at foreign language learning lessons or books (related words are normally grouped together so that they can be learnt easily by a non-native speaker).

15)  Formulate ´pro and con` arguments for topics in the news.

16)  Play ´Hangman`.

17)  Play word games such as define five categories and write a word of more than 6 letters. For each letter making up the word, give one item of each category.

18)  Design and describe imaginary objects, areas, equipment etc. For example design an adventure playground for dogs or design a car that runs on plant power.

19)  Play ´Twenty questions`, ´Charades` or any equivalent guessing game.

20)  Look at the top word on a random page in a dictionary and see if you can use it at least 5 times in the next 2 hours.

attention

   ´Just concentrate` or ´Pay attention` are two of the many sayings used to bring an individual back to consciously concentrating on the learning or recall task at hand. Attention is another skill that is important to learning and it is important because, whether consciously controlled (top-down) or not (bottom-up, guided by external environment and sensory systems responses), it plays a role in every stage of the brain memory mechanism. A deficit manifests itself in poor learning via input or storage deficits and an inability to recall and carry out tasks. According to the brain memory mechanism proposed here, attention has three main functions and they are thought to be:

1)      It provides focus and attention on stimuli, i.e. sensory pathway activation due to sensory organ firing relevant to external events or inner speech.

2)      It monitors conflict between information from the external environment and that stored in memories and re-activated.

3)      It inflicts a sense of timing on tasks.

 focus and attention on stimuli

    Focus and attention has a role in influencing the stimulus in every stage of the brain memory mechanism. According to the mechanism advocated here and summarised in the companion site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, attention exists in one of three interchangeable attentional states:

  • normal - for those relaxed conditions when learning is not required and attention ´flits` around the external environment not settling on any one object in particular. In this state, the brain dopamine-based emotional system described in the sections above dominates and hence, the basal ganglia inhibits thalamic activity.
  • normal focused – exists when focus deliberately lies on an object or location and learning may take place. Again the brain dopamine-based emotional system dominates and the basal ganglia inhibits thalamic activity.
  • fear – exists when focus is on a specific event perceived to be ´dangerous`. In this case the dominating emotional system is the noradrenaline-based one described above and the resulting emotion experienced is fear. Thalamic activity is not inhibited.  

These three attentional states are linked to changes in the brain memory process and other cognitive functions and some of these are shown in Table 3.

Table 3 – Brain memory changes and the various attentional states

 

EFFECT ON ..(SELF REPORT)

NORMAL STATE (PRESUMED HAPPY)

NORMAL FOCUSED

FEAR STATE

Focus on desired object

No problem.

Required.

If relevant to fear state, both no problem. If irrelevant, problem focusing.

Focus directed by external force on an object

Shifts to focused.

Required.

Carried out without criticism or comment.

Level of attention paid to large things, small things /concentration

No specific attention, ´flits`. Distraction easy.

Attention brought to both. Distraction possible, but depends on circumstance and individual.

Attention paid to relevant objects, and attention paid to small things even if irrelevant.

Concentration

Low level of concentration on any single object/task. Concentration wanders.

Level for desired task acceptable so long as relevant and not ´mood destroying`.

High level.

Consciousness

Normal awareness.

Appears heightened – conscious awareness for desired object/task.

Appears heightened – Subconscious and conscious. 

Input of sensory events

Normal. Sees, hears everything and nothing.

Focuses on only desired object/task.

Heightens senses – detail taken in whether conscious or subconscious.

Storage of memorable events.

No specific learning takes place.

Specific learning of desired object/task – requires attention and focus – continuous activation through rehearsal or circumstance.

Memories formed unconsciously and consciously. Overall – not just in fovea. No rehearsal necessary.

Level of monitoring

Low.

Higher – monitors to makes sure focus remains on object.

High – monitor of response, physiology condition etc.

Sequences

Not possible – shift to focused.

Rehearsal, repetition required, focused attention.

Not possible to learn unless ´calmed`.

Recall (working memory)

Level of recall depends on level to which learnt. ´Flits`, inspired by clues.

Level of recall depends on level to which consciously learnt. Recall focused in response to specific cues etc.

Recall may be greater than expected – needs prompting, but nevertheless possible, or non- existent unless under supreme prompting, eg. hypnosis.

Level of forgetting

Highest. Not there in the first place.

Focused object/task – normal forgetting- needs reminding every so often.

Lowest. Rehearsal, eg. by repeating story reinforces memory.

Leadership system

Not functioning.

Under strict control – guiding, learning/completion of task.

Under strict control – remove from fear situation.

Processing system

Available, but only in low level use – i.e. object recognition, emotional storage etc.

Suitable for task.

Suitable for task.

Recognition of well-liked object and hated object.

Both. Recognition of hated object causes shift in mood.

Both. Recognition of hated object causes shift in mood.

Both. Recognition causes shift in mood – well-liked leading to relaxation, hated re-enforcement self-congratulatory.

Problem solving

Not possible- must shift to focused.

All possible corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new problem-solving techniques, be adventurous etc.

Only those relevant to job in hand attempted. Only tried and tested methods used. Processing to remove individual from danger/fear situation.

Decision-making

Low level decision-making, e.g. ´luck`, capitulation to others.

Possible corresponding to own capability. Willing to learn new decision-making techniques, listen to other peoples` points of view.

Only tried and tested methods used. Listens to others only if respected. May not coincide with those holding position of authority.

Language skills

Good

Good if on focused object/task. Practice – conversation possible during recalled movements, e.g. talk and drive at same time.

Distracted – more on removal from fear circumstance. Talk on situation, but not ´off`` subject.

Perception of time

Normal, but slower if bored. Looking back, fast if lots of activity within time-frame.

Normal – tends to appear to go fast.

Slower than normal

Feeling of self-identity

Normal.

Normal, positive swing.

Either ultra-strong or ultra-negative.

´Tiredness` effect

Input without realisation, low morale, poor attention, poor storage, poor recall.

Focused input unaffected since ´alert`. May be harder to get started.

Immediate alertness. No longer tired whilst event taking place.

Emotional state and inner physiological systems

Peaceful, normal running.

Happiness whilst successful at learning, switches to panic, if behind, forgets. Reward when task finished, learnt.

Fear – relaxation when event over.

 

   Regarding brain memory, the normal focused and fear attentional states are important. In the normal attentional state objects in the visual sensory field cause neuronal firing from the sensory organ along the visual pathway to the relevant higher cortical areas, but the unique firing patterns are not maintained due to the constant head, neck and body movements (the sensation of ´flitting`). This means that the conditions required for learning, i.e. the formation of the short-term memory stores recording the event, are not met. Focusing the attention on a particular sensory experience within the sensory field however results in positive changes in cognitive function (Table 3). The act of focusing attention means biochemically that in the case of the visual system, the object or location of choice remains in the visual field and particularly in the foveal area, the centre.  The stimulus then causes appropriate cells to fire, which activate the relevant pathways from the sensory organ to the brain and temporary sensory stores are formed in the cortical layers representing the incoming information. ´Holding` the stimulus in this position may require movement of the head or eyes for example, and this results in sustained activation of those fired cells and a shift from the brain memory temporary sensory stores to the short-term memory stores (the iNCA), occurs. This means that in the normal focused attentional state learning can occur and the content is dependent on the sensory cells fired at the sensory organ level to the corresponding higher brain areas.

    Recognised psychologist theories advocate that all incoming information is either partially or fully processed (Treisman, 1964 and Deutsch and Deutsch, 1963) according to perceptual load capacity (Lavie, 1995) – essentially a limit to the amount processed at any one time. In biochemical terms this means that the information entering through the foveal point (the centre) is likely to be fully processed and will cause ultimately the response, whether it is an action or brain memory formation. Other information from the peripheral areas of the visual field can also be processed to the point of recognition (full processing), which means that their pathways are also fired to their end-point in the cortex, or they can be partially processed, if perceptual capacity is restricted: the higher the level of cortex stimulated, the greater the complexity of the input.

    It is this perceptual load capacity that is changed in the third attentional state, the ´fear` state. Certain features of the ´fear` attentional system remain unchanged compared to the normal systems and these are:

1) Control is still through two systems (Corbetta and Shulman 2002, Posner 1980) – one top-down (consciously controlled) and the other bottom-up (controlled by the external circumstances and low level sensory organ activity).

2) All stimuli in the visual field and other sensory fields are processed fully or partially according to perceptual load theory (Lavie, 1995).

3) Selection of stimuli can still be location-based, object-based or both. (Search capability appears to be quicker in the fear state, but this may be an illusion since finer details are lost or the individual is less distracted by them.)

4) Visual processes and other sensory systems remain structurally the same.

5) Conditions relating to divided attention and attention on multiple senses simultaneously remain unchanged.

   However, the fear attentional state appears to induce two changes in the mechanism for brain memory input. These are that perceptual load capacity appears to be increased and secondly that the normal biochemical ´holding` of the object within the sensory field required for memory formation appears not to be met by the sensory systems themselves.

   The first difference, the increase in perceptual load capacity, was found to be attributed to the activity of certain brain areas involved in attentional and emotional states and these are the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala already discussed, and another area, the anterior cingulated cortex. Memories formed under ´fear` conditions appear to be all encompassing, which implies that details that are under normal circumstances not remembered form in this case part of the memory of the event.The actual perceptual load capacity increases through amygdala action on the thalamus. This effect increases sensory input, perhaps brought about by a change in number or type of thalamic cells stimulated or through action on the pulvinar nuclei.  Normally, the pulvinar nuclei of the thalamus prevent attention being focused on unwanted stimuli, but in this case when the inhibiting effect is removed, more input from the stimuli occurs by increasing the functioning of certain parts of the sensory pathways (the lateral geniculate nucleus for the visual system for example). This also provides a link between the attentional system and the emotional system.

    Another observation by Adolphs, Tranel and Buchanan (2005) showed that also in these circumstances the quality of the information stored was decreased, i.e. there is a reduction in the level of detail. For example, maybe less reference points are inputted, or shape takes priority over contrast details, so that an object may have shape and colour, but pattern details are missing. This could be at the processing, i.e. cortical level or at the level of the sensory organ activation. This hypothesis supports the nature of the circumstances instigating this change, e.g.  ´fight or flight` tactics in fear circumstances probably appoint more importance on shape and movement of objects in the external environment than on pattern. As far as brain memory is concerned, the level of input reflects the level of memory of the event. Detail may be conscious or subconscious dependent on perceptual load capacity, if at all remembered. However, more research is required to demonstrate whether this is indeed the case and so for the time being, we must assume that in the ´fear` attentional state, there is increased perceptual load capacity with increased levels of task relevant material perhaps with a loss of detail, and increased levels of what can seem like task-irrelevant information.

   The second difference in brain memory input between conditions in normal attentional state and the ´fear` attentional state is that it appears that the normal biochemical conditions attributed to memory formation seem not to be met. Sustained activation of firing cells through ´holding` the stimulus in the sensory field appears not to be applicable in the ´fear` circumstance, since the external environment is often rapidly changing and repetition or ´holding` even via individual movement cannot occur. Even so, memories of fear events are often far more encompassing than normal and therefore, it must be concluded that the sustained activation of the neuronal cell pathways to consolidate the temporary sensory stores into the more longer-term short term memory stores must occur, albeit not in the same way as in normal attentional circumstances.

   The mechanism advocated here involves a change in internal timing using the capability of neuronal cells in certain areas, namely the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and thalamus, to fire without external stimulus. Changing the timing of firing, i.e. ´holding the firing` of the cells where the external stimulus no longer exists, as in the case of the rapidly changing ´fear` external environment, may mean that sustained activation can be maintained internally for those cells, whereas other cells will be responding to the ´real-time` external stimulus. Therefore, the internally ´held` cells and their subsequent pathways will be ´detached` from the ´real-time` events and the representation at the higher cortical levels will be of an event that in part no longer exists. A change in synchronicity between the two types of ´stimulus` must therefore exist. Support for such a theory comes from the perception that time appears slower in ´fear` situations.

   Just like with the normal attentional states, the ´fear` attentional state is linked with the emotional system. In this case, however, the noradrenaline-based brain system appears to dominate and the state brings about the physiological and cognitive effects required for the situation. Important ´players` in the emotional system, e.g. the amygdala, cingulated cortex and prefrontal cortex mirror the important ´players` creating the ´fear` attentional state. However, the prefrontal cortex ´sliding switch` mechanism suggested for the recording of the emotional tag is skewed to reflect the activated noradrenaline system in its ´on-off` manner and under such conditions the emotional tag stored with any incoming sensory information will reflect the heightened physiological state. Therefore, to summarise in the ´fear` attentional state basic memory mechanisms remain the same, but more basic information appears to be learnt with no repetition or ´holding` necessary.

     Therefore, the memory stages and the memories formed are affected by the attentional state existing at that time. Attention affects the input stage in the following ways:

1)      Spontaneous or undirected attention favours particular features of externally placed objects/events according to physiological feature priority rules, e.g. shape and movement in preference to stationary (affordance/function important); colour in preference to dark and light. These characteristics make up the core features of the event. Other features affected by attention are relative size of object and relative location of object in sensory field, e.g. large object even in background is likely to overshadow attention for a whimsical one in the foreground.

2)      Visual attention is dictated not only by features, but also visual field, which is determined by head/neck/eye positions plus the physical state of the organs involved, e.g. myopia. Related to this are the Posner and Peterson control models, e.g. alerting, orienting (disengage, shift, re-engage) and executive control.

3)      Attention to objects in the sensory field is not only brought about by physical characteristics, but also from language (speech or thought) and cognitive actions, e.g. something familiar is likely to overshadow something unfamiliar in a group portrait, or objects with highly emotional values dominating others of lesser emotional worth. Attention can also be controlled top-down, e.g. due to interest, expectation, emotional values and it can also be hijacked by undesired objects as distraction demonstrates.          

4)      Priming can positively influence attention on particular stimuli by increasing the level of familiarity and hence, increasing the priority of this material as a sensory stimulus.

5)      Not all input is attended. Attention dictates the field, quality of incoming information and quantity through perceptual load theory. It is linked to emotional system activity.

6)      Divided attention will lead to effects on both quality and quantity of material selected to be inputted.

7)      In the case of input of sequences, changes in the level of attention follows the sequence input, learning and recall. Not only conscious input of sequences is undertaken, but if possible also subconscious (context memory). This depends on the level of perceptual load capacity.

8)      The fear emotional state will lead to changes in quality and quantity of information inputted and mirrors the attentional state actions.

9)      Attention provides the conditions by which sensory stores are converted to short-term memory stores through the sustained activation of sensory pathways. This occurs when the object remains in the sensory field, a task allotted to the actions of certain brain areas responsible for the visual system, as well as the lateral intraparietal cortex (LIP) and pulvinar nuclei of thalamus. 

 Attention affects the stimuli in the storage stage in the following ways:

1)      Attention on objects within the sensory field dictates what is stored long-term providing conditions of sustained activation are met. The amount of attended and unattended information stored is dependent on perceptual load capacity rules.

2)      Attention can keep the focus on core/high priority features so that these features are stored.

3)      In the case of sequences, attention can lead to the holding by internal means of features necessary for the event memory.

4)      In variable storage, attention leads to the focus remaining on new input as well as re-activation of stored material.

Attention affects the stimuli in the various recall methods in the following ways:

1)      In recall without processing (i.e recall of memories just as they are in response to adequate stimulus, incoming information stimulates recall of memories as they are and therefore, attention and focus dictate what recall takes place.

2)      In recall with processing (i.e. the initial stimulus is inadequate at providing a suitable recalled memory and therefore a change in stimulus is required), a change of focus is instigated through the conflict signal resulting from the attentional state heightening. This leads to new input and hence, hopefully to a satisfactory recall.

3)      In recall with further processing (i.e. the initial stimulus fails to provide adequate recall and many steps of processing may be required before a suitable result is obtained), attention plays different roles in the various stages. In the purpose and input stages, attention on the task and attention on the external environment leads to two different input stimuli. In the solutions stage, attention leads to incoming information leading to the magic answer solution or other stimuli for the construction of possible options based on designated criteria, e.g. emotional views, consequences and sequels. In the choice stage of recall with further processing then attention leads to stimuli so that decision-making can be made based on ´heart` or ´head` choices. And for the final stage, attention leads to stimuli so that the purpose can be compared to the result of the action. 

monitoring conflict

   The second function of attention, according to the mechanism advocated here and summarised in the companion site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`, is the registration and monitoring of conflict in the cortical/higher brain cells between incoming/stimulus information and re-activating groups of information previously stored. The registration of conflict will heighten the attentional state from normal focused to fear state, which results in a change in quality and quantity of incoming information as described above. Conflict occurs within the working memory (like a mental ´white board`) and is observed in particular stages of the brain memory mechanism. For example in:

  • the input stage - for mistakes in sequence learning, i.e. action slips with automatic processing.
  • the variable storage stage - leads to further processing of incoming information before long-term storage and is important in the creation of the generic version and categorisation.
  • the recall with processing stage - the conflict signal results in a change of focus via accidental frame change or widening the scope so that new information is inputted, which may lead to successful recall.
  • and in the recall with further processing stage - conflict is registered between the purpose and incoming information, input from the external source versus internal sources (task), informational content of each solution, purpose and solution so that a choice has to be made and between the result of the action and the actual task (purpose).

   In all cases, the registration and monitoring of conflict leads to changes in quality and quantity of input instigated through the heightening of the attentional state and the activation of the amygdala, anterior cingulated cortex and appropriate prefrontal cortex areas as described above. 

timing function

   The third role for the attentional system in recall is more ´esoteric` in that the brain memory mechanism advocated in the companion site suggests that it imposes a subconscious time constraint on recall tasks. The time constraint begins with the instigation of the task (in this case sensory activation and stored memory firing) and ends when the appropriate answer i.e. ´electrical image` (´magic answer`) occurs. If we consider the recall process in the case of unknown object recognition, the process begins with the incoming sensory information and the systems are relaxed until the point when we consider that recognition is not possible, then fear/panic sets in. This indicates that there is a subconscious time constraint on the process. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that the time constraint could be the dying of the reactivated memory activation through unprolonged firing, although this is probably not feasible since impairment of recognition is likely to keep the object in the sensory focus, hence sustaining activation. Another suggestion is that there is an internal mental clock and the attentional system monitors the functioning of this clock.

   Personal perception of time can be described with examples of internal systems as in the circadian rhythms of sleep and oestrogen brought about by hormonal changes and examples of external timing systems, such as clocks and working shift patterns. This personal perception of time can undergo changes, such as that observed in ´fight or flight` responses or boredom. Time as far as the brain memory mechanism is concerned relates to synchronicity of information and this reflects more an ´order-type timing` which can be recorded in the memory trace, rather than absolute values and a ´stop-watch` type timing function. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that this latter process requires an internal mental clock that instigates actual timing on the mechanism. This is required so that the brain does not waste time and energy on processes that will not lead to successful conclusions, i.e. recall, and therefore, will bring about changes in order a favourable outcome will occur. Here it is suggested that the attentional system plays a role in monitoring this internal mental clock and when the operation is not completed within a certain time limit, then it will instigate changes in order to do so, e.g. cause a change in focus so different sensory information is inputted providing different firing stimuli. Although elaborate timing systems could be hypothesised, it is more likely that in this case the internal mental clock is more like an ´egg-timer` and two systems match the criteria for this type of clock: the coincidence-detection model relating to the functioning of the striatum found in the basal ganglia); and the action of a cellular protein, called ECTO-NOX (Westphal, 2004). Both of these ´outside the box` proposals may lead to the ´egg-timer` monitoring of the recall process by the attentional system, but this is only a hypothesis. What is certain is that the attentional system and activity of the prefrontal cortex, cingulated cortex and amygdala is the key to the initiation of panic signals if action does not occur within a certain time period. Ultimately, it prevents the brain using cellular resources for an activity unlikely to be successfully completed and promotes instead a change in cognitive tactics.

methods to improve attention

   We have to accept that attention allows a finite amount of subconscious learning capability and a finite amount of conscious learning capability at any one time. Therefore, optimisation of the learning process would require an increase in both subconscious and conscious learning capability. We can use training to increase attention and hence, quality and quantity of information. Methods include:

1)      Increase sensory fields, e.g. use speed-reading techniques to widen the visual field.

2)      Keep sensory fields on targets rather than flit/wander, e.g. use meditation techniques concentrating on one object such as a candle, bear; decrease size of visual stimuli or auditory stimuli so that attention has to focus on required material; use visual or auditory training exercises such as watching rolling ball.

3)      Decrease number of repetitions necessary, e.g. use memory cards or puzzles to make attention match task.

4)      Decrease length of time for sustained activation/holding, e.g. focus on one object only so that perceptual load capacity is entirely taken up by attended/task relevant object.

5)      Shift as much as possible from conscious to subconscious memory (automatic processing advantage) via learning through repetition for sequences.

6)      Increase multitasking, e.g. use tabs on the computer, hone divided attention techniques (e.g. try listening to different sounds in an orchestra).

7)      Use priming to increase the amount of knowledge taken in on any one go by relating it to already familiar material.

8)      Use language (inner speech, loud speech) to target attention and maintain focus, e.g. practice with ´Spot the difference` puzzles, or ´Find the object in a picture`- type puzzles.

9)      Change inner timing function so that time appears slower, for example through heightening attentional state by dissociating internal thought from external stimuli.  Give a deadline so working to a time limit.

10)  Hone emotional system so learning optimised (e.g. jump up and down and repeat; keep calm). Use inner speech to be positive, e.g. ´I can do this`.

11)  Shift from static/single stimulus to sequence learning (automatic processing), e.g. use movement in stimuli to take advantage of priority of features.

12)  Introduce multi-modality to improve attention and improve amount learnt in one go.

13)  Increase attention on sensory system input by decreasing volume or decreasing size of image. Can use computer games, which require fast responses to rapid sensory input.

14)  Stimulate focus and attention by doing quick puzzles, e.g mazes and word games.

thinking and processing

    Sayings such as, ´Think about it` or ´Work it out` reflect the importance of thinking and processing on learning and recall. Our complicated environment means that we need to remember huge amounts of facts, but this environment is also constantly changing. Since it is impossible to experience and learn all scenarios we must use, either directly or indirectly, the knowledge we accumulate to make sense of it. This ability is what makes us human and what makes each human unique.

effect of thinking and processing on the brain memory stages

    Thinking could be said to be especially important to those of us who learn using language, since language is the tool by which thinking occurs. Therefore, if we use language we automatically think. As far as brain memory is concerned, thinking can play a role in every stage of the mechanism and does so in one of two ways:

  • thinking mirrors the event directly reinforcing it;
  • or thinking and processing can change the brain`s representation of the event and it is normally the latter we associate with thinking.

    Thinking can affect every stage of the brain memory mechanism involved in conscious learning. In the first stage, the input of sensory information, thinking (or speech) can lead to the conscious placing of sensory fields (top-down control of sensory input). This is important in, for example, the search for particular objects or in the input for sequences, where each step is learnt and repeated. Conscious sensory field placing can also lead to the selection of objects/events by their value, which reflects the interests, aims and opinions of the individual. According to the mechanism advocated here, there is no processing at this stage.

    In the next stage, that of storage, thinking leads to the controlled repetition or holding of events so that the sustained activation condition required for the shift from short-term storage to long-term storage is met. It can also lead to the search for distinctive features so that new information can be added to a previously stored grouping, such as ´filling-in` of features or the creation of the generic version. This increases the knowledge base of the individual.

    In certain cases, thinking and processing can take place before storage takes place (termed here variable storage). The conflict signal registered in the working memory state due to the incoming information and the re-activated previously stored material leads to a heightened attentional state as described before. In this case, thinking and processing is carried out to:

  • aid the presentation of new information to remedy the situation via widening the scope of the sensory fields or causing head/eye movements so that new sensory fields are presented (termed here accidental frame changes). This can help in the recognition of unknown objects for example.
  • aid in the categorisation of events through guided comparison between stored information and the new incoming information, or registration of similar features for example. Thinking heightens the comparison and can possibly lead to new categories being constructed, which is the basis of creativity.

Evidence for the roles of thinking and processing in the storage stage come from:

·         Level of Processing theory (Craig and Lockhart, 1972) - essentially the more something is worked on, the better something is remembered),

·         order of intake observations - primacy and recency theory, where first and last things are remembered best. Thinking and processing can counteract this,

·         and the use of particular learning methods - mind maps and anagrams for example which require thought to be put into the information before being stored.

   In recall, thinking and processing has increasing importance with increasing amount of dissimilarity between incoming information and stored information and task. In the simplest recall method, recall without processingBrain Memory: Outside the Box`), conscious thinking leads to the selection of stimuli and the awareness of a successful recall. When this is not achieved or if conflict is evoked between the stimulus input and the re-activated cells of the stored memories, feelings of uncertainty or acknowledgement that it is not completely correct or will not fulfil the task, result. Then recall with processing takes place, where subconscious processes directed by the attentional system will result in a change in sensory field (termed in this version accidental frame change or widening the scope) so that new stimuli placed in the sensory fields will elicit a satisfactory recall. There can be conscious awareness of this shift and thinking may even direct the sensory fields so that the storage methods of generic version and categorisation can aid in a successful outcome through the use of inferences. Therefore, in both recall without processing and with processing, conscious thinking can guide as well as re-enforce the stimuli presented by the use of language to add extra information.

   However, not all recall is simple and a further more complicated recall method is required in situations where incoming information and stored information have no chance of bringing about a successful outcome without intervention, e.g. in problem-solving. Therefore, recall occurs via the mechanism described in ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`) for recall with further processing. In this type of recall, thinking and processing of information play major roles. For example:

·         In the purpose stage – conscious thinking leads to the definition of purpose for performing the task by being aware of the current position of the individual or state of affairs and comparing this to the future, the goal. Therefore, the goal is identified according to previous experience, if not dictated by external means. In the purpose stage, language can play a vital role, since identification of the goal may not be clearly observable and more than one step may be required.

·         In the input stage – conscious thinking can lead to controlled input according to points of access selection rules as described in the companion site, such as the answer to the question, ´who` requires a person as answer. Therefore, conscious thinking will lead to recall of specific memory types in response to the purpose.

·         In the solutions stage – there is conscious awareness that intervention is required to bring about a successful conclusion to the recall session. Therefore, conscious thinking and information processing skills construct the optimal strategy (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`) to achieve the purpose of the task. This may involve language and logical thinking to dismiss, put forward or compare different option methods, e.g. look at how each option affects other people or how each option would lead to unwanted complications. On the other hand, subconscious processing may lead to the selection of a method whether optimal or not, purely due to frequency of its use or whether strong emotional values are attached.

·         In the choice stage – in this stage there is conscious awareness that an ideal, simple solution has not been found amongst the possible options chosen in the previous stage. Therefore, a decision will have to be made to remedy the situation (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`). The decision process may be carried out without conscious thinking relying on such things as responding to highly emotional values, habit, or laziness, but thinking and processing can direct the method to looking logically at the options available. In this case, assessment of the options is based on frequency, similarity and level of risk.

·         In the outcome stage – conscious awareness indicates whether in the eyes of the individual the result of the recall stage matches the goal (purpose). If successful, then conscious thinking is not necessary, but if unsuccessful conscious thinking will lead to either an acceptance of the result as it stands or a re-think of the task.

 

methods to improve thinking and processing

 

   We can see from above that thinking and processing influences every stage of learning and recall, and therefore, any improvement in application or method may lead to an increase in brain memory efficiency. In the brain memory mechanism advocated here, thinking and processing are associated with language ability and communication skills (particularly relevant to those of us who use language to learn and recall), intelligence, expertise and so on, i.e. fundamentally linked with the working of material in all stages. Therefore, methods to improve brain memory relate to this function and a few changes can have a huge effect. Some methods for example are:

1)      Change your attitude - anything is better than nothing. Fate or lack of active thought and processing can bring learning and recall success, but more likely than not at best the optimum is not achieved and at worst, the wrong things could be learnt or a task incorrectly solved. Therefore, in the absence of a clear path determined by experience, then any effort expended in thinking or processing information relating to any stage of the brain memory mechanism is better than nothing. A change in attitude may be required, so that the information is worked in the input stage (e.g. select what you want to select rather than leave it to the domination of the strongest features), in storage (e.g. combine what you are learning with what you know already by looking at similarities, differences etc., ask yourself questions to expand what you know instead of just rote learning), and in recall, question whether the task has been solved to the best of your ability rather than accepting the best of what is available from the previously stored experiences accumulated. A change in attitude might also be required so that confidence is not destroyed by failure or confrontation from others, for example and effort is rewarded however small. Memories are unique to the individual and so is the approach that the individual takes and this individuality should be accepted as an advantage rather than to be feared.

2)      Start off easy - start off with the familiar. One of the advantages of our brain memory system is how brain memories, whether in part or whole, are linked to one another. Therefore, thinking about one thing will spur on related thoughts based on our experiences. When presented with something difficult, it is probably advisable to start by looking at the familiar, e.g. a known object or pattern. This has two advantages: the first - one may be lucky and activation of the stored groupings related to this familiar event may stimulate others that provide the individual eventually with the knowledge required, without any complicated processing stage (an advantage of priming, for example); and secondly, the positive emotional effect of knowing something can induce the individual to search, widen, challenge and so on so that eventually the right result is obtained. Although it is tempting to skip these early stages, rarely do we become ´experts` in something without them. These early stages also give us a chance to expand our knowledge base by introducing topics that we may not normally be subjected to and this has already been suggested as a way of expanding the knowledge base.

3)      Work the material – look at the detail. A book is not just a book; a view is not just a set of objects located before you. By working the material through thinking (using language -thought, inner and loud speech) and processing, each learning and recall stage can be improved and this has been described above. Methods for doing this are many, for example, use interrogation-like techniques (i.e. ask questions as if you were a reporter, policeman, teacher – choose the meanest questions possible to stretch you); use word games such as ´7 steps to…´, anagrams, ´find the best similar ….`, ´5 similarities/differences to…`; use brain storming techniques based on the mind-map, e.g. match … to ….. Thinking and processing can also be improved in general by games and puzzles (chess, logic puzzles), or challenging third party activities such as TV documentaries, lectures, non-fictional books. The only proviso is that conscious thought has to be made by for example, carrying out a critical assessment of what is being experienced.

4)      Expand your interests.  The ability to think and process relies on not only the processing techniques and tools (such as language) available, but also on the knowledge base a person has. During our lifetime, we expand our knowledge base through personal experiences and thought, and hence, restricted stimulation can limit the knowledge one has. Methods to improve this have already been described earlier. Most people have no difficulty in absorbing knowledge or seeking out experiences for subjects they like. The problem comes when the subject is not  – a common situation in school learning, for example. A method to overcome this is to turn the subject into something you do like. For example, if you like people, then that history project about Egyptians becomes easier to learn if you consider the events from one person`s point of view or from a social class. By turning the topic into something that one is familiar with or likes then learning becomes less of a chore. This also involves more thinking and processing, which is advantageous to the learning process.

5)      Use unusual techniques. Conscious thinking can expand the use of strategies such as in the selection of stimuli or in decision-making. Habit and regular use of favourite techniques can lead to staid, predictable results and even if they are successful then an injection of creativity in using unfamiliar methods can stimulate, evoke a fresh look at a something and increase a positive sense of well-being. Alternative methods can include for example: in input, the selection of lesser characteristics or pattern, or objects in the periphery rather than centrally positioned; in storage, the association of new material with more avant-garde memories such as those found in examples where creativity is shown; and in the case of recall, the use of less favourite techniques for the construction of options, e.g. consider all plus or minus points instead of looking at how something will affect you or other people, or in decision-making, e.g. assess using risk strategy rather than always choosing your favourite. Even in some situations, non-logical methods could be considered such as throwing a coin, or taking the first option that presents itself. These are not cases where thinking and processing are paramount, but the mere act of choosing randomly could instigate conscious responses even if only to explain to others what you have done!

Therefore, by thinking and processing in any brain memory stage, the material learnt and the material recalled could be changed, which could be an advantage to the learning and recall process. 

practice

    ´Practice makes perfect` is a saying relating to learning, but why is it necessary to repeat something at all? Surely, it is enough just to experience something once? From our own experiences we know that when we do something only once, then we remember only a part of what happened. So, why do we need to repeat something? The answer lies in the brain memory mechanism itself as described in ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`. Repetition as seen in practice for example, provides continued firing of the sensory pathways of the incoming information so that sustained activation at the higher cortical levels is achieved. This leads to the conversion of sensory stores and short-term stores to long-term storage of the new information. Therefore, practice strengthens the information already stored and also, allows more details to be added. For example, consider the game where there is a tray with 20 objects placed upon it. The names of the objects are learnt one (or a group) at a time, based on the chunking theory that only 5-9 units can be learnt at any one time. Each repetition strengthens the temporary memory stores of the ones already learnt and allows new ones to be added. This type of learning is even more apparent in learning of sequences such as shoelace tying or pieces of music.

    It has been suggested that practice in terms of learning should involve 7 – 15 repetitions to be successful. However, it is more likely that the number of repetitions required varies according to the difficulty of the material, the mood of the learner, unfamiliarity of the material etc. and therefore, no definitive number can be placed upon it. The individual should then practice as much as necessary, but bear in mind, conscious repetition with lots of material ´working` is far better than blind/rote practice. The use of language strengthens the success and ease at which the material is learnt.

   The other role of practice is to prevent loss of the stored memories, essentially forgetting. Forgetting can be defined as a failure to remember and both Ebbinghaus (1885) and Linton (1978) showed that there is a natural progression of memory failure with time. Biochemically, forgetting could be due to poor input (information fails to convert from sensory stores to short term memory stores because of lack of attention for example), storage problems (conditions for long-term storage are not met or material has been forgotten due to higher frequency of other material as in the case of conditioning extinction) or recall difficulties (where defects in processing, decision-making etc. manifest as memory recall problems). However, a large majority of psychologists (84%) believe that the failure lies in the permanent storage stage compared to 69% of non-psychologists (Loftus and Loftus, 1980) and this indicates that forgetting is likely to be caused by deficiencies at the latter two stages of the brain memory mechanism, the storage and recall stages.

   Not that forgetting is accepted by the individual as inevitable. The importance of the brain memory system with the regards to interpretation of the constantly changing environment and social conditions and the number of influences on the process itself means that the system has to have some inbuilt safety measures to compensate for loss of capability. ´Outside the box` thinking suggests that these safety measures can fall into one of four categories:

1)      physical adaptability – aptly demonstrated by distributed brain area and function, mass action and equipotentiality and cognitive reserve. Also includes the adaptation of other areas to take over specific functions (plasticity).

2)      processing flexibility- shown by automatic processing and shift to conscious processing, changes in attention, e.g. divided attention and responses to physiological conditions such as emotions, sleep and tiredness, and even ´shut-down` during coma or sleep.

3)      organisational flexibility – the instigation of ´back up` brain memory through the formation of multiple associations, reframing changes from alterations in input due to changing objectives, ignoring value-laden words and prompter influence and the effect of training and instruction.

4)      time-frame adjustment – includes the ability to shift from future planning to considering only the ´real-time` or safeguard the individual by thinking of only the past, or repression of the past.

These measures allow changes in biochemical efficacy to occur without effects on performance being apparent. However, forgetting can and does occur. Preventing or reducing this loss can be helped by revision of the learnt material, which is essentially repetition. Biochemically, this re-activates the memories and hence, through this re-activation strengthens them. Buzan (1974) suggested a revision schedule to prevent forgetting and this is discussed further in the later sections when guidelines for learning are given. 

Therefore, points to consider relating to practice are: 

  • An optimal external environment is beneficial during the practice sessions, e.g. reduced level of distractions.
  • Repetition of exact stimuli is required with no variations during the learning period. There is sometimes an ability to spot or intuitively feel that mistakes or order changes have occurred during the learning process.
  • Language strengthens informational input, other senses too if appropriate and therefore multi-modality helps practice and learning. Attention should be on all senses.
  • Priming can strengthen input.
  • All relevant details of the material/sequence should be noted, but there is the ability to determine what is relevant and what is irrelevant which is important (relevant things are learnt first with irrelevant adding the ´padding` later in the learning period).
  • Awareness should be placed on practice timing – first slow, then speed up (according to expertise laws).
  • Learning and practice can be an emotional roller-coaster with highs when material is successfully learnt and recalled and lows when details or order are forgotten or errors made. The learner should try to minimise the ´fear stretches` since learning is physiologically changed under these conditions. Successful practice should be rewarded in some way.
  • Practice means not only physical movements, but also mental exercise, e.g. problem solving techniques. The defining task, choosing input, choosing options, making decisions stages should all be practiced in order that recall with further processing for example becomes easier.
  • Practice means that new information is added to previously stored information in the learning stages and in recall, real-time input relates to the sequence itself and input from the external environment is essentially ignored. This means that practice requires a focusing of attention on the task at hand.
  • The ability to associate old practices to new novel situations requires the capabilities to see use in previously gained knowledge and to be able to apply it whether adapted or not. 
  • Individual personal characteristics determine whether continued practice is acceptable by the individual or considered a waste of time and energy.

   Whatever one feels about practice, it is a necessary step in learning, whether deliberate in sequence learning or part of the normal learning process in factual memory formation. Accepting that learning is important means that the learner is more amenable to spend time practicing and hence, improvements in learning can be observed if the practice techniques are appropriate to the task at hand.

PERSONALITY AND ATTITUDE EFFECTS

   Every one knows that a person`s character is reflected by their behaviour and it appears that includes approach to learning and brain memory, too. Possible areas of the brain memory mechanism where personality and attitude can have an effect are given in Table 4.

Table 4 - Possible areas of brain memory where personality can have an effect  

POSSIBLE AREA AFFECTED BY PERSONALITY

DETAILS

Ability to concentrate, level of attention paid to task. 

Required and affects all stages. Boredom, patience etc.

Level of desire/ambition to undertake, carry on with and complete task.

Where desire/ambition to undergo task then also will to search out best possible paths. Amount of reward or satisfaction one gets from successful completion of each stage spurs on. Determines how much energy the individual wishes to use up on the task.

Perceived difficulty of task.

Linked to effort, personality and desire. Perceived difficulty of task affects methods chosen, energy expended, order of tasks carried out (e.g. more difficult first, easier second or vice versa).

Level of self-confidence, self-belief

Can affect all stages since confidence manifests itself in carrying on with a task, seeking out alternatives, ability to make decisions, receiving instruction from others etc. Confidence may override the perceived difficulty of a task. Confidence leads to multi-tasking, automaticity, prediction, using novel methods, seeking out unfamiliar cues etc.

Emotional state and emotional values.

From individual, evoked from others or from environment. Leads to emotional state that affects how information is selected, processed and recalled. Every individual has own OWL – level at which physiological emotional systems function at best. Normally dopamine system dominant. Resulting emotional values (stored in tags) can determine which objects are selected, how recalled etc.

Ability to communicate knowledge to others

Can be linked to language ability, but may manifest as actions, behaviour etc. Required to show understanding and learning. Ability to transfer knowledge clearly and accurately not possible by everyone. Use of inner voice and thinking.

Relationship to time

Every individual has an inner clock linked in terms of brain memory with the time allowed to undertake particular tasks. Manifests as patience for example. Can be consciously set (e.g. I´ll give myself 5 minutes and if it´s not done then…) or physiologically (e.g. the ECTONOX, attentional system). Perception of time can change, e.g. fear, boredom.

Thirst for knowledge

Desire to increase knowledge base since sees the advantage of a wide knowledge base. Ability to refine stored information, making new associations, adaptations.

Flexibility in thought

Ability to adapt, be flexible in real-time and with stored information. Non-flexible – obstinate, uncreative. Can be linked to ability to accept instruction from others (also linked to confidence). Flexibility in thought linked to confidence, patience as well as knowledge.

Level of ´effort/energy` likely to expend in task.

Go with flow or put in some cognitive effort. A bit like bottom-up control (dependent on stimuli, external environment, previously stored material) or top-down control (hypothesis testing, seeking out alternative sources etc). Highly individual, not even stable (e.g. tiredness vs ´fired up` about something).

Level of awareness

Linked to perception (affects input) plus other stages (awareness of others, e.g. empathy). The ability to see beyond what is there. Could be physical, e.g. visual characteristics or non-physical, e.g. the ability to know that this particular path will not bring results.

For a more detailed investigation we have to look at individual personality traits.

personality factor pairs and the brain memory mechanism

Catell (1946) defined 16 personality factor pairs, with each characteristic at the end of a continuum (Table 5). Individuals demonstrate different personality traits and these are at different points along the continuum for each pair.

Table 5 – Catell`s personality factor pairs (1946)

PERSONALITY FACTOR PAIRS

(EACH END OF CONTINUUM GIVEN)

Reserved (impersonal, distant)

Outgoing (likes people, warm)

Less intelligent (unable to handle abstract problems)

More intelligent (fast learner, abstract problem solver)

Affected by feelings (easily upset, emotional)

More emotionally stable (mature, faces reality calmly)

Humble (submissive, easily led)

Assertive (forceful, aggressive, competitive)

Sober (serious, strained, silent)

Happy-go-lucky (cheerful, expressive)

Expedient (non-conforming, disregards rules, self-indulgent)

Conscientious (rule-conscious, dutiful)

Shy (timid, hesitant, intimidated)

Venturesome (socially bold, thick-skinned, uninhibited)

Tough-minded (unsentimental, self-reliant, no-nonsense)

Tender-minded (sensitive, sentimental, intuitive)

Trusting (unsuspecting, accepting, easy)

Suspicious (sceptical, distrustful)

Practical (grounded, solution orientated)

Imaginative (abstract, absent minded, absorbed in ideas)

Forthright (naive, unpretentious)

Shrewd (discreet, worldly, diplomatic)

Placid (unworried, complacent, free from guilt)

Apprehensive (insecure, self-blaming)

Conservative (attached to familiar, traditional)

Experimenting (open to change, liberal, critical)

Group-dependent (a joiner and follower)

Self-sufficient (solitary, resourceful)

Casual (tolerates disorder, relaxed)

Controlled (perfectionist, disciplined)

Relaxed (low drive, placid, patient)

Tense (impatient, driven, frustrated)

 

Obviously, this is a simplified view of characteristics since each is represented by a continuum and no one exhibits purely traits at each end of the scale or a single scale only, but for study purposes we have to take it so. In this section, we have to look how individual personality traits affect learning and memory according to the mechanism advocated here and considering that the brain memory mechanism has parts, some of which are physiologically determined (e.g. neural transmission, long-term memory changes) and some parts, that are under personal control. It is possible that it is the latter group, which is influenced by personality. 

   The factors of the brain memory mechanism considered are:

  • Relating to input – the selection of material (whether for example a personality trait leads to favouritism of objects or people, or the individual seeks familiar rather than unfamiliar events, or has favourite features), and whether selection can be guided by others; plus the emotional effect of the input.
  • Relating to storage – the capability of the individual to add to previously stored information or whether information is ignored or dismissed; how the information is processed before storage and if the resulting knowledge base has particular strengths or weaknesses.
  • Relating to recall – the sources of the recall cues, the capability of changing or adjusting the cue so that recall can take place and for recall with further processing how the individual can consciously influence each stage, e.g. establishment of goal, assessment of input, construction of options, acceptance of magic answer or instigation of a decision-making stage and finally the review of the outcome.

Each personality trait affects the learning mechanism differently and a full account of the investigation is given in the book, ´Learning with Words` (Salt, 2012). For the purposes of this website, however,  we continue with how to improve learning and memory.

improving memory taking personality into account

general method and first stage

    If we assume that the brain memory mechanism is likely to be affected by personality traits then we can suggest how weaknesses can be improved, in order that the efficiency of learning and recall is increased. This process has 3 stages:

1)      Assessment of own personality and recognition of possible dominant traits.

2)      Determination of likely weaknesses in the brain memory mechanism associated with those traits.

3)      Application of suitable methods to combat the areas where improvement can be made.

   The first stage is the assessment of personality traits. In order to do this, the individual has to make some estimate of which traits are displayed dominantly. Obviously, to do this properly then a professional examination is required, but in this case the remedies suggested can be safely applied to all and therefore, this situation is probably no different to filling in personality questionnaires in magazines or on the Internet. Every one knows whether he or she swings towards one trait or another, and so either a critical look at oneself, or questioning a close friend, family member or someone who knows you well, will give an indication of those traits that are dominant in your personality. The list of personality traits given in Table 5 (Catell, 1946) can provide the basis of this estimate (Table 6) and it is should be remembered that not all pairs may apply.

Table 6 – Self-examination of personality traits

TICK LEFT BOX IF THIS SIDE DOMINANT

LEFT

RIGHT

TICK THE RIGHT BOX IF THIS SIDE DOMINANT

Reserved (impersonal, distant)

 

 

Outgoing (likes people, warm)

Less intelligent (unable to handle abstract problems)

 

 

More intelligent (fast learner, abstract problem solver)

Affected by feelings (easily upset, emotional)

 

 

More emotionally stable (mature, faces reality calmly)

Humble (submissive, easily led)

 

 

Assertive (forceful, aggressive, competitive)

Sober (serious, strained, silent)

 

 

Happy-go-lucky (cheerful, expressive)

Expedient (non-conforming, disregards rules, self-indulgent)

 

 

Conscientious (rule-conscious, dutiful)

Shy (timid, hesitant, intimidated)

 

 

Venturesome (socially bold, thick-skinned, uninhibited)

Tough-minded (unsentimental, self-reliant, no-nonsense)

 

 

Tender-minded (sensitive, sentimental, intuitive)

Trusting (unsuspecting, accepting, easy)

 

 

Suspicious (sceptical, distrustful)

Practical (grounded, solution orientated)

 

 

Imaginative (abstract, absent minded, absorbed in ideas)

Forthright (naive, unpretentious)

 

 

Shrewd (discreet, worldly, diplomatic)

Placid (unworried, complacent, free from guilt)

 

 

Apprehensive (insecure, self-blaming)

Conservative (attached to familiar, traditional)

 

 

Experimenting (open to change, liberal, critical)

Group-dependent (a joiner and follower)

 

 

Self-sufficient (solitary, resourceful)

Casual (tolerates disorder, relaxed)

 

 

Controlled (perfectionist, disciplined)

Relaxed (low drive, placid, patient)

 

 

Tense (impatient, driven, frustrated)

stage 2 – determination of weaknesses

   Likely weaknesses of the personality traits related to brain memory are listed below:

1)  Reserved (impersonal, distant) – possible basic weaknesses: uses safe material, safe processing, less people-orientated approach (may be lack of confidence with others). Unlikely to seek out advice, more likely to stick to facts. Emotional influence skewed where people are concerned.

Opposite end of continuum - Outgoing (likes people, warm) – possible basic weaknesses: favours people, uses people-orientated material and processing (desire to please others, places trust in others, will ask for advice). Uses empathy, uses others experiences. Can be more adventurous but always relates back to others. Therefore likely to ignore or dismiss important material or options in order to conform. Emotional status relatively normal, but will have extremes. 

2) Less intelligent (unable to handle abstract problems) – possible basic weaknesses: likely to favour familiar material and material evoking emotional extremes (will be guided by others provided satisfy own logic, own emotional demands). Hence knowledge base restricted to interests (therefore less creative). Information more dramatic (e.g. colour, definitive movements etc.), making it easy to store and reference. Emotional influence more likely to be of the extreme. Can have trouble with distraction if not interested or material not considered worthy. Processing and recall methods same – suffers from extreme emotional influence, restricted knowledge base and use of favourite and less creative methods. More likely to use non-active decision methods even when not applicable.

Opposite end of continuum - More intelligent (fast learner, abstract problem solver) – possible basic weaknesses: more even approach to selection of material than less intelligent; handling with relative ease objects/people, familiar, less familiar as well as dramatic and less dramatic material. Can be guided by others if situation demands. Likely to have normal emotional values. Likely to ignore or dismiss information, processing etc. if considered superfluous, illogical or under time constraint. Maybe a disadvantage in that all information considered useful and therefore difficult to assign relevancy. Can be creative using associations, methods etc. so that task successfully completed, but can suffer from too much logic, i.e. needs a bit of spicing up.

3) Affected by feelings (easily upset, emotional) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall guided by value system if possible (emotional system dependent), e.g. priority to objects/people with extremes. Hence extremes registered and values skewed. Likely to stay with more with familiar than unfamiliar since latter likely to cause stress. Features, methods tend to be more dramatic since initiate strong emotional response. Will ignore less dramatic. Can be guided by others but likely to have different result because of dominance of emotional system by individual.

Opposite end of continuum - More emotionally stable (mature, faces reality calmly) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall not reliant solely on emotional value, instead more logical (i.e. task relevant) with people/objects taking equal priority. Can be guided by others and judged logically. May need spicing up a bit, taking more avant-garde approach to stimulate creativity.

4) Humble (submissive, easily led)            - possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall suffers from the individual`s desire to bow down to others. Probably no difference between facts pertaining to people and objects, but likely to prefer familiar material, methods etc. (feels safe, one of crowd,) rather than risk consequences of selecting unfamiliar. Material is likely to be ´safer` than for assertive people and staid. Easily guided by others and therefore material, processing, recall, and knowledge base can reflect interests and demands of others rather than self. Emotional values given are relatively normal if a bit downbeat (i.e. less positive). Material chosen by others, values more negative (fear of failure dominates).

Opposite end of continuum - Assertive (forceful, aggressive, competitive) - possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects confidence associated with an aggressive, competitive nature and desire to be the best. Will be more brash, more dramatic in the selection of material, processing and methods; familiar and unfamiliar information handled with the same confidence. May miss smaller details, less obvious methods, associations etc. because concentration on larger, more obvious ones with which to impress or assert. May re-direct unnecessarily or inappropriately in order to maintain dominance. More likely to be the guide, but if guided, then everything required to be ´one better`, therefore will be more detailed. More definitive emotional information attached to material (has to have definitive views with which to assert over others, or be competitive).  

5) Sober (serious, strained, silent) – possible basic weaknesses: likely to restrict material, processing and recall to facts (stable emotional worth required) whether relating to people or objects. Detailed if necessary, but likely to be in general staid/conservative and shunning fun, madcap features. Guided by others if considered ´serious` otherwise ignored. Emotional state tends to be ´serious happy` and values relatively normal.  Lacks creativity that comes from the ´madcap`/unconventional.

Opposite end of continuum - Happy-go-lucky (cheerful, expressive) – possible basic weaknesses: likely to restrict selection of material, processing and recall to ´happy` information whether people or objects. Features likely to be dramatic, vibrant with serious ignored or shunned. Guided by others especially if in the same vein. More problematic if upsets ´happy-go-lucky` attitude. Emotional state tends to be happy and therefore will try to avoid any unpleasantness leading to values skewed towards the positive. Problem with all stages since ´happy` status has to be maintained.

6) Expedient (non-conforming, disregards rules, self-indulgent) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall led by the desire of the individual to break rules or keep himself on top independent of the task. Can have knowledge base, material, methods etc. based on factual (must know rules in order to break them) or may have a ´devil-may-care` attitude. No definitive requirements for features, but often seeks out lesser details or more avant-garde in order to be less conforming, more provocative etc. Can accept guidance from others, but will rebel if not given the chance to non-conform. Emotional responses and values skewed since gets a ´buzz` when non-conforming. Therefore, seeks out situations where this will occur, e.g. choosing non-active decision making methods.

Opposite end of continuum - Conscientious (rule-conscious, dutiful) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall likely to be based on factual (clear-cut opinions on what is right and what is wrong). Prefers familiar since clear-cut rules, but not afraid of unfamiliar since can transfer knowledge. Will accept guidance from others, but will rebel if not given the chance to conform. Emotional values and responses geared to please others.

7) Shy (timid, hesitant, intimidated) – possible basic weaknesses: a mix of reserved and humble personality traits and therefore, likely to favour material, processing and recall that is safe, familiar (no desire to go against crowd, or put in a situation of failure in the eyes of others). Guided by others when commanded, but unlikely to seek advice particularly from unknown. Knowledge base can reflect interests and demands of others rather than self. Emotional information likely to reflect fear/panic state associated with unfamiliar material or material linked to people, hence values reflect skewed input.

Opposite end of continuum - Venturesome (socially bold, thick-skinned, uninhibited) – possible basic weaknesses: a mix of outgoing and expedient personality traits and therefore, selection of material, processing and recall based on over-confidence and lack of consideration for others, etc. Therefore, likely to seek out more avant-garde, more adventurous (ignore lesser details). Guided by others if greater authority but more likely to prefer own path (own way best) irrespective of outcome. Will ignore if does not agree, independent of information worth. Emotional values reflect positive confident attitude (more definitive), unlikely to experience fear and hence values skewed.

8) Tough-minded (unsentimental, self-reliant, no-nonsense) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects favouritism towards facts, less emotional influence approach (values skewed slightly towards cold). Therefore, more task orientated. Likely to ignore or dismiss facts, methods etc. if considered superfluous, illogical, excessively emotional or under time constraint. Likely to be guided by others if considered logical, trustworthy etc. Processing of material fluid and creative. Externally guided associations likely to be even more profitable, e.g. brain storming. May be a disadvantage in that all information considered useful and therefore difficult to assign relevancy and also lacking a realistic emotional component.

Opposite end of continuum - Tender-minded (sensitive, sentimental, intuitive) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall guided by facts and value system – facts and comparison of emotions, e.g. empathy, intuition play important roles. More emotional extremes registered. Will search out objects/peoples giving ´happy` feeling in preference to fear (survival and dominance of the dopamine system). Therefore, more for the familiar, e.g. materials, methods etc. since unfamiliar likely to cause stress so avoided. Can be guided by others but relies on own value system.

9) Trusting (unsuspecting, accepting, easy) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects easy nature of individual and gullibility. People and objects, familiar or unfamiliar show no difference. Unlikely to favour any certain characteristics and likely to consider task. Probably prefers being guided by others since can be gullible. Since looks on the bright side/gives benefit of doubt, then emotional values possibly skewed towards positive.

Opposite end of continuum - Suspicious (sceptical, distrustful) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects individuals desire to use own knowledge base, own experiences, own methods. Probably feels safest with familiar since unfamiliar likely to evoke negative fear emotions. Distrustful when guided by others. Emotional values skewed to negative since fear or distrust attached to information.

10) Practical (grounded, solution orientated) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects goal orientated, based on facts and experience or interesting approach with object or people, familiar and unfamiliar. More likely to be informational rather than emotional, hence emotional state recorded as secondary to facts. Finer details may be ignored at first until basic features learnt or used first.  New material, unfamiliar methods ignored if considered irrelevant (i.e. complex level of detail) or if against logic of previously stored material and previously used methods.

Opposite end of continuum - Imaginative (abstract, absent minded, absorbed in ideas) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall likely to be spontaneous, goal-orientated, but both creative. Ignored if less avant-garde, therefore lesser details used or favourite methods used in favour of more staid, practical material or methods which could achieve task quicker or more effectively.  Can be guided by others, but demands that creative, empathic. Emotional state and values play a role in which material is selected. More creative, therefore more emotional. May have difficulties if individual concentrates on deliberately being unconventional.

11) Forthright (naive, unpretentious) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall factual, straight, staid. Will ignore more avant-garde or emotional material, methods etc. unless necessary. Can be guided by others, but remains focused on facts (likely to look at shape and movement first). Probably normal emotional status and values.

Opposite end of continuum - Shrewd (discreet, worldly, diplomatic) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall factual. Objects and people, familiar and unfamiliar show no difference. Cunning therefore begins with shape and movement first, but also likely to give importance to finer points, which could give diversity or upper hand at later date.  Can be guided by others especially if held in high regard. Will accept any material as important. Likely to be on ´cold side` and therefore, emotional values skewed.

12) Placid (unworried, complacent, free from guilt) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall favours safe, familiar since requires unworried existence. Can include more avant-garde since not really worried about validity. Can be guided by others. Emotional values skewed towards happy side since unworried.

Apprehensive (insecure, self-blaming) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and methods favour familiar, safe since requires material, methods not to be contradicted by others. Unlikely to include avant-garde material. Guided by others, but requires correctness or same as others since does not want conflict and if there is conflict, blames one-self. Emotional values skewed towards fear/panic since worried about whether correct, whether conflict etc.

13) Conservative (attached to familiar, traditional) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects safe staid approach. Prefers familiar to unfamiliar, so capable of adding to knowledge base for example, but material and any new methods must be logical and valid. Less likely to use avant-garde or frivolous material, processing, methods etc. Guided by others if considered worthy. Emotional information leans towards ´cold`, hence skewed emotional values.

Opposite end of continuum - Experimenting (open to change, liberal, critical) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and methods reflects experimenting nature, but if situation demands then task takes priority. Unfamiliar and familiar accepted and characteristics shape and movement, but also more avant-garde features, methods and processing. Can be creative. Guided by others whether worthy or not. Emotional values more expressive and skewed towards extremes preferably positive. Problem that staid/conventional likely to be ignored in favour of more colourful/unconventional.

14) Group-dependent (a joiner and follower) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects desire of individual to be one of a group, therefore will consider others and look for approval from others in every stage of brain memory mechanism. Likely greater people orientation, desire for familiar or unfamiliar (strength through group) dominating selection of material, processing and methods. Information, methods ignored or dismissed if group deems it or if considers against stored information. Emotional information more dependent on group. Likely to be more extremes. Shows empathy to others.

Opposite end of continuum - Self-sufficient (solitary, resourceful) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall guided by own experience, favourite methods and own knowledge base. Uses familiar and unfamiliar (has self-confidence to deal with unknown). Capable of adding to knowledge. Probably well-defined views. Information ignored if regarded as illogical, against previous ideas unless good argument for replacement, or if given by others not respected by individual. Selection etc. can be guided by others, but they require respect and individual normally prefers own judgement. Normal emotional values of own making. Problem lies with limitation of features, methods and processing through dominance of own self, e.g. cannot take advantage of others experiences, views etc.

15) Casual (tolerates disorder, relaxed) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall reflects the haphazard, relaxed, laissez-faire approach of individual. Features, methods, and/or processing not necessarily the best, the most obvious or even correct, and can be done on a whim. Can choose familiar or unfamiliar since same devil-may-care attitude to both. Therefore information, methods may be incorrect, patchy, outdated etc. on negative side, but creative and avant-garde on positive. Emotional information inconsistent. Likely to have strong views on some things and weak views on others with a priority not shared by others.

Opposite end of continuum - Controlled (perfectionist, disciplined) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall logical, correct, best. May be carefully selected and definitive. Selection of material by others unlikely to take priority over that chosen by individual himself and if occurs must be of higher authority. Emotional information possibly secondary to facts. Definitive ideas therefore skewed to extremes.

16) Relaxed (low drive, placid, patient) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, processing and recall favours safe and familiar since requires unworried existence, happiness. Can include more avant-garde since not really worried about validity. Can be creative. Guided by others whether correct or not since unworried about validity. Emotional values skewed towards happy side since unworried.

Opposite end of continuum - Tense (impatient, driven, frustrated) – possible basic weaknesses: selection of material, methods and recall reflects over-anxious nature of individual and each stage likely to be time restricted. Probably feels safest with selection of familiar since unfamiliar likely to evoke negative fear emotions. Probably definitive ideas and opinions favoured since holds own counsel. Distrustful when guided by others so unlikely to accept it, hence unlikely to learn anything new except under own volition. Emotional values skewed to negative since fear or distrust attached to information. Time constraint so likely to panic more.  

From the possible weaknesses, four specific areas are suggested to combat the deficiencies in the brain memory mechanism and hence, bring about an increase in performance. These are:

1)      To increase creativity through the introduction of the avant-garde.

2)      To increase self-confidence relating to people.

3)      To increase trust in facts rather than people (including the self).

4)      To re-balance emotional worth.

Each personality trait has been assessed as to which methods are likely to be the most applicable and the results given in Table 7.

Table 7 – Suggestions to improve performance for personality traits

 

Traits

Methods

1)

Reserved (impersonal, distant)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

 

Outgoing (likes people, warm)

Increase trust in facts in preference to people (including self). 

2)

Less intelligent (unable to handle abstract problems)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Re-balance emotional worth.

 

 

More intelligent (fast learner, abstract problem solver)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

3)

Affected by feelings (easily upset, emotional)

Re-balance emotional worth.

 

 

More emotionally stable (mature, faces reality calmly)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

4)

Humble (submissive, easily led)       

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

Assertive (forceful, aggressive, competitive)

Re-balance emotional worth.

 

5)

Sober (serious, strained, silent)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

Happy-go-lucky (cheerful, expressive)

Re-balance emotional worth.

6)

Expedient (non-conforming, disregards rules, self-indulgent)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Conscientious (rule-conscious, dutiful)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Re-balance emotional worth.

7)

Shy (timid, hesitant, intimidated)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Venturesome (socially bold, thick-skinned, uninhibited)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self).

8)

Tough-minded (unsentimental, self-reliant, no-nonsense)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Tender-minded (sensitive, sentimental, intuitive)

Increase trust in facts rather than people. Re-balance emotional worth.

9)

Trusting (unsuspecting, accepting, easy)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self).

 

Suspicious (sceptical, distrustful)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self).

10)

Practical (grounded, solution orientated)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

 

Imaginative (abstract, absent minded, absorbed in ideas)

Increase trust in facts rather than people. Re-balance emotional worth.

11)

Forthright (naive, unpretentious)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

Shrewd (discreet, worldly, diplomatic)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Re-balance emotional worth.

12)

Placid (unworried, complacent, free from guilt)

Increase trust in facts rather than people. Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Apprehensive (insecure, self-blaming)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

13)

Conservative (attached to familiar, traditional)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Experimenting (open to change, liberal, critical)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

14)

Group-dependent (a joiner and follower)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Self-sufficient (solitary, resourceful)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self).

15)

Casual (tolerates disorder, relaxed)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Controlled (perfectionist, disciplined)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde.

 

16)

Relaxed (low drive, placid, patient)

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

 

Tense (impatient, driven, frustrated)

Increase creativity through introduction of avant-garde. Increase self-confidence relating to people.

Increase trust in facts rather than people (including self). Re-balance emotional worth.

Using Table 7, the reader can identify which methods are the most applicable to likely bring about an improvement in learning. The strongest five traits identified in Table 5 should be written in Table 8 and using Table 7, those methods recommended to combat the areas of weakness can be filled in.

Table 8 – Identification of improvement methods

 

Trait

Increase creativity

Increase self-confidence

Increase trust in facts

Re-balance emotional worth

1)

 

 

 

 

 

2)

 

 

 

 

 

3)

 

 

 

 

 

4)

 

 

 

 

 

5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stage 3 – improvement methods – general points

    The methods are detailed below, but a few general points about improving learning and recall need to be remembered in addition. These are:

1)      Take small steps. Do not try to do everything or change everything at once. It is better to apply the methods and practice in small steps and give yourself a ´reward` (could be just a mental ´pat on the back`) when that step has been successfully achieved.

2)      Remember a little stress is OK. We need a little stress to change things or shake ourselves up and we experience it naturally when we are trying something new or something we are unsure of. This kind of stress is positive, but when it is so bad that we are positively fearful (experiencing symptoms such as sleeping badly, breathing differently, headaches, anxiety) then change the approach and accept without reproach that this method is not for you.

3)      Use what you have. Use inner speech, talking aloud, singing, flash cards etc. and whatever else you need to make your learning as effective as possible. We all have our favourite methods, sometimes (if we are lucky) to have been discovered when we were at school and so don`t be afraid to use these methods whatever your age.

4)      Accept that you are not perfect. No one is perfect. We all forget things, have limits to our knowledge, have difficulty in learning certain types of information and so on. The difference is that situations and limits are flexible and we can improve. However, that does not necessarily mean we will end up with brain memories comparable to computers or our mobile phones. We have to accept that we are not perfect.

Let us now look in more detail at the four groups of methods given to overcome the suggested weaknesses in the brain memory mechanism brought about by personality traits.

Stage 3- improvement methods - increasing creativity through introduction of the avant-garde

   In general, this type of method to improve the brain memory mechanism is suggested for individuals who can be divided into two groups:

1)      Those, where there is a need to achieve success or the individual is afraid to try anything new, therefore he sticks to staid, safe, less controversial material. With some this is due to external influences, e.g. individuals are afraid of others, afraid to be wrong, incur their wrath if not dutiful etc. This group includes those demonstrating the personality traits, reserved, less intelligent, humble, sober, conscientious, shy, suspicious, apprehensive, conservative, group-dependent, and tense.

2)      Those, who have confidence, but rely on favourites for success and therefore need the more unusual to spice things up a bit and be less logical, less serious, less sensible and more creative and adventurous. This group includes those demonstrating the personality traits, more intelligent, more emotionally stable, tough minded, practical, forthright, shrewd, self-sufficient, and controlled.

   Before any method is employed the individual must be convinced the method is going to work. The individual can have a mantra, or a picture of someone he respects, or the promise of a reward etc., but the mind must be open to new ways of working and also believe in its success for the method to work. This does not mean, however, that learning can only be carried out in a particular place with a particular pen, favourite drink etc. – these circumstances only occur in stable learning situations for children for instance or in laboratories. The rest of us must learn to learn and use memory skills everywhere and in every situation.

   Another requirement that needs to be fulfilled before the individual begins is to define why he is doing it. He may be training to increase his effectiveness at learning and recall for a specific task, e.g. object recognition or it may be out of interest etc. The reason for this is simply that there is too much information out there and hence, restricting the learning to relevant material for the task or topics of interest will make the process more effective and will be quicker.

   Once the goal is recognised, it is advantageous then to create an overview of what is known about the topic before the learning/recall takes place. This may not be in full detail and in fact a mind map and known topics/fields is all that is necessary. Construction of the topics/fields can be dependent on the subject and level of knowledge, e.g. general topics could be those gained from a crossword dictionary; more specialised from a technical book; others from the table of contents of encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia etc.

   For the introduction of creativity to those known topics, then the following methods could be used. Table 9 gives methods influencing input, either in the input stage or input of material for recall. It should be noted, however, that there is a huge number of different sources of material, e.g. radio, books, television, Internet sites, mobile text pages etc. and the methods suggested do not determine validity, they just say they can be used as sources. Hence, the individual must use his own judgement to select and use information available from any source.

Table 9 – Methods to introduce creativity into material and learning methods – input stage

 

INPUT

SUGGESTED METHODS (For adults either requiring a little more creativity, or a more zany approach or for children.

 

 

Individual`s own selection of material for object recognition

Suitable for all. Use unusual features of an event for stimulus. May need basic shape and other features first, but then can use pattern, shadow, unusual features etc. Can use multi-sensory stimuli. Can also use events not directly in the sensory centre, but need to have carried out basic analysis of central event first. Children may have to use ´looks like ……` since knowledge base not so wide as adult. Adults requiring a little more creativity probably achieve better success with definitive plan, e.g. look for largest area of same colour, same pattern; look for all items that begin with letter ´s` etc.

 

Suitable for all. Ignore information with emotional extremes instead look for material with non- or low emotional worth, which would normally not be selected. Increases chance of using material usually discarded due to lack of interest (eyes flick automatically to familiar or well-liked material).

 

Suitable for more zany approach. Use more non-active methods, e.g. dice throwing, throw a 3, look at third feature from left; have not looked at green features for a while. Method normally associated with non-active decision-making, but also appropriate here. Hope that associations between two leads to object recognition.

Individual selection of material for increasing knowledge base.

Require information to be linked to previous knowledge of that topic and other topics, hence increasing the associations. Mind maps advantageous, even if at basic level since gives ideas of where to expand, where knowledge missing etc. (Can use known subject plan, e.g. geography, people, culture; Wikipedia good for giving general plan.)  Whichever method used to stimulate then need to work at selecting information, making informed decisions at its worth and then learning. (Use of internet facilities good for adults, but must be aware of inaccuracies. Can use Wikipedia, Internet book seller book selections, structure of websites as base; tables of contents and indexes of books; but make sure use more than one book etc. since books/websites omit information or topics intentionally to mislead, by mistake etc.).

 

Suitable for all. At macro level - use more unusual sources, e.g. lesser well-well known websites, books, articles, authoritative people etc. At micro level, use, e.g. search engines for associating words so knowledge base expanded and linked between known topics; internet book sellers book/DVD selections for information about different angles through reading abstracts; flick random pages in book about same topic or many books on same topic (libraries usually good source of material). Hence, increase knowledge base by looking for lesser known features and associations (known and common features reinforced by continual reference).

 

Suitable for all. Game ´Seven steps to……. (associate topics together, the more abstract the better)`.

 

Suitable for all. First letter of one word stands for another linked to that topic or completely random. Or use reverse acronyms, e.g. topics about summer use ´s` for sun and level of sunshine, ´u` for us could be tourist levels during summer holidays, ´m` for ………. (can cheat a bit: ´m` could be ´munchies` and therefore discuss fruit and vegetables  available during summer months etc.).

Individual selection of material for task / problem solving

Recall with further processing stages. May need to address small steps instead of one leap to solution.

(defining purpose)

Limited room for manoeuvre here since purpose defined by task. Where am I now, where do I want to be. Therefore, need selection of material from external source to define ´where am I now` and selection of material from inner source to define ´where do I want to be`.

 

Suitable for all. Practice at defining goals from simple e.g. where, why to more complicated where more than one step. Easily done if think of oneself as teacher, interviewer, police, reporter – what questions would they ask. The more difficult, the better.

(input)

Defining points of access to start recall process.

 

Suitable for all. Practice at defining points of access, e.g. the standards - people, places, objects etc. (Appendix 1).Those individuals needing help with creativity should use plan of subjects; others with more creativity can look at second level subject, i.e. more exact cues.

(solutions and reframing, construction of options)

Deliberate re-framing uses points of access from all sources compared to the goal. No clear end-point means the construction of options.

 

Suitable for all. Exploration of all methods of construction of options so that list of favourites widened, e.g. if always look at emotional values then look at consequence and sequel, alternatives, possibilities and choices (See Appendix 1 for choices). For each require that material selected. Use different methods to see how results vary. Needs to be practiced and learnt.

   Table 9 described methods of how the individual can increase input and stimulate creativity in that input himself, but not all incoming information occurs under the volition of the learner, sometimes the selection of material is guided by others. The problem with this type of 3rd party intervention is knowing who to trust, a problem becoming even more apparent with use of the Internet and other non-personal communication methods. One way to reduce the risk is to verify the material either by using multiple 3rd party sources, or by confirming it with an authoritative individual. Methods for improving this type of selection are:

1) Brain storming, whether real or virtual (Internet forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc.)

2) Use unusual ´characters` as guides or information sources.

3) Read and implement methods from ´How to`, self-help type books/DVDs. A method suitable more for adults since although possible for children, the language level may be too complicated or the quantity of pages to get over one simple message too great etc.).

   Creativity can also be introduced in the storage stage. Processing of new material and old material prior to storage (includes categorisation, associations, generic version construction etc.) leads to an increase in the knowledge base. This is advantageous because for example, object recognition may occur more easily since a lesser detail can spark recognition through the increased number of memory associations; or task/problem solving has more chance of success since points of access, option construction etc. are more detailed or more relevant since there is more stored material at hand with which to make judgements. Methods to introduce creativity at this stage include: using mind mapping to aid associations, categorisations etc.; constructing hierarchies, e.g. name three birds as top of the hierarchy and describe their habitat, what they eat, migration patterns, associated myths etc.; and thirdly, use lateral thinking, such as associations through letters, e.g link to everything beginning with an ´s`.

   Methods to increase the avant-garde in the recall stage of the brain memory mechanism involve looking at more obscure details of the stimuli not normally considered as a first stimulation option, or by using methods not normally employed. Some methods are given in Table 10.

Table 10 – Methods to introduce creativity into recall  methods

RECALL PROCESSES

METHODS

Sources of cues considered stimulating recall.

Practice widening the scope of recall possibilities by describing an item in its finest detail. Often details are lost or ignored in the rush to get an answer or move on to another task. By describing lesser details then the brain is trained to look for less obvious cues. This has the advantage that learning of more common features reinforced by constant referral.

 

Be prepared to look at objects that are not centrally placed in the view. Flicking the eyes from top right, top left, bottom left, bottom right will introduce other objects in the standard view, which can stimulate recall.

Recall with further processing

 

Establishment of purpose/goal?

Practice defining purpose using the standard five questions, e.g. what, where, why.

 

Practice switching single step problems to multiple steps and vice versa by introducing or removing elements of the task, or simplifying it.

Assessment of input and points of access?

Use lesser details or unusual events to provide points of access (Appendix 1). Use knowledge stored in mind-maps, hierarchies in knowledge base to introduce new points of access and then stimuli. Use encyclopaedias to introduce new points of access.

Construction of options

Use alternative methods than favourites for options, e.g. if normally look at other peoples views then look at consequence and sequel instead (see Appendix 1 for choice).

Decision-making capability (heart vs head involving frequency, utility or risk)?

Learn to use all methods of decision-making (Appendix 1). See how different methods bring about different solutions and how these should be matched to goal (review of outcome).

Use of non-active decision-making

Insert the avant-garde by using non-active decision-making when situations suitable (see Appendix 1 for choice). May have to accept that answer unlikely to be most suitable.

Stage 3 – improvement methods - increasing self-confidence relating to people

   In general, this type of improvement method is suggested in those cases where information and methods obtained from other people or about people would improve the effectiveness of the individual`s learning and recall. It is suggested for individuals demonstrating many different personality traits and gives an indication as to why people rely more on facts than people/people-orientated material. The personality traits that could benefit from this type of method are:

a)      Shy, reserved – likely to use facts rather than people/people-orientated material or methods for fear of failure in others eyes.

b)      Humble – likely to follow others leads. Needs to become more confident in own ability and judgement.

c)      Conscientious – needs it to become more confident and hence question others opinions, rules etc.

d)      Shy – likely to follow others or be dominated by others, hence brain memories and mechanisms led by others.

e)      Practical – dominance of facts, need to be more open and accept advice from other people.

f)        Apprehensive – dominance of fear, insecurity, fear of upsetting or annoying others.

g)      Group dependent – conformity to group and therefore needs to increase self-confidence to establish own identity.

h)      Self-sufficient – reliance on self, needs to increase self-confidence so can rely on others.

i)        Tense – increase self-confidence with people so that time stress reduced, less dependent on self and more on individuals.

   The methods needed to increase the use of people and people-orientated material and methods have to lead to an increase in the effectiveness of learning and recall for that person. An individual will not change his methods if the results are less than what he has already. Therefore, he has to be shown that the ability to use this type of material and methods will be advantageous in comparison to his more usual factually based ones. Again, before any improvement method is instigated the individual must have confidence in its success.

   Another aspect relating to this type of improvement method is that the individual has to learn to deal with the introduction of unknown, uncontrolled, unpredictable ´factors` that could influence all stages of his brain memory mechanism. I suggest that a method to combat this uncertainty can be achieved by the definition of the worst-case scenario for the individual in relation to other people. Every one has a situation that he fears the most, e.g. being laughed out of the room, being ridiculed on Facebook, etc. and one way to get over it is to learn to cope when or if it occurs and in that way, any lesser problem can be dealt with.  In relation to this case where the introduction of other people can lead to incorrect information being stored and recalled or opinions used for decision-making that are nonsensical for example, the individual can overcome the problems by for example using phrases or actions that are suitable in all situations. The style of these phrases and actions are dependent slightly on the individual – some preferring the funny retort, others the apologetic approach for example – but the determination of how one will deal with the situation before it occurs, allows the person the freedom to make a mistake without complete loss of confidence in using the more unusual method (a form of ´skin-toughening`). The resulting effect of increasing confidence with people can change what material is selected and how it is processed  (e.g. construction of options in problem-solving can be both people and factually based).

   Examples of methods that are likely to increase the confidence in people and people-orientated material are given in Table 11.

Table 11 – Methods to increase self-confidence in people and people-orientated information and material

 

ASPECT

METHODS

Develop a ´thick skin` – criticism is ok when you follow someone else`s lead – your level of perfectionism is not always possible. When can`t rely on just own judgement then have to accept that others have different opinions, work at slower speeds, will criticise etc.

Learn to be on receiving end of criticism, be patient, demonstrate leadership.

 

Let people guide you, e.g. blindfold, mazes.

 

Let people voice their opinions about events without loud comment. Relate to personal opinions but do not comment. Add to knowledge base with clear indication that source is someone else.

 

Accept source of recall from others. May be able to guide direction but accept others suggestions and follow it through without comment.

 

Allow widening of scope with recall with processing to follow leads of others. Could point out features that can be followed, but see if other demonstrates creativity.

 

With further processing, establishment of goal should follow lead of others. May demonstrate creativity. Hard if illogical so may guide.

 

Options considered can be widened to appreciate Other Peoples Views, Alternatives Solutions and Choices etc. Can use methods not normally considered to be appropriate in these circumstances.

 

Acceptance of recall answer if dictated by others independent of whether one agrees or not. Only answers totally out of order should be rejected.

 

Decision-making methods can be opposite to what would have been chosen. Sometimes just accept a non-active decision-making option just to spice things up a bit/as preparation that cannot be perfect.

Seek out people who you trust, who can be your mentors. People whose knowledge and attitude to life (calm, logical, non-stressful) you can admire. Learn to identify people who are talkative and self-confident, but are wrong, give only biased opinions etc. Know what their point of view is. Learn to read others, e.g. actions, gestures, content as well as how say things.

Develop methods where self-confidence and trust in others increased, e.g. physical games such as catching a falling person, or language-based such as test opinions on topics where you have a definitive opinion and knowledge.

 

Ease of Internet to find information, find mentors, e.g. blogs, forums, but must be wary though.

 

Use of topical anecdotes.

 

Assess language of others - learn to recognise woolly, inflammatory or opinionated words. Be critical, i.e. remove all adjectives and replace descriptive verbs with simple verbs such as take, go, make, eat. Hence, re-evaluate speech.

 

With regards to oneself, learn to use longer, more complicated words, jargon, expert language or specialised language. Use internet for this purpose.

Make goals clear so that others have definitive ideas of what is required.

Make sure that input and recall matches what is required to know. Practice constructing concise goals, e.g. construction of the limiting sentence (one sentence to describe everything). 

Stage 3- improvement methods - increasing trust in facts rather than people (including self)

   This is actually the opposite to the above improvement method since what is required is an increase in the trust of facts rather than relying on other people. Individuals who rely on others are likely to ignore facts in preference to other peoples` opinions, or follow their lead rather than thinking for themselves. This results in essentially, a ´dumbing-down` effect on an individual`s use of information and methods, as well as enforcing skewed emotional values since opinions recounted may be more than just the individuals own. Individuals who may benefit from methods that can lead to an increase in trust of facts rather than other peoples` opinions, information and methods are:

a)      Outgoing - rely on others for the path taken, takes others lead, for example. 

b)      Shy - rely on others for the path taken, they do not want to be wrong etc.

c)      Tender-minded – rely on facts and emotions. Likely to follow others since not wanting to upset anyone.

d)      Trusting – likely to follow lead from others since think they know best.

e)      Suspicious – likely not to trust others so need to increase trust.

f)        Apprehensive – need to overcome insecurity, self-blaming and build confidence in own abilities.

g)      Group dependent – need to overcome reliance on the group.

h)      Self-sufficient – need to increase facts relating to people and increase trust in others.

   An over-confidence in one`s own ability is equally bad, since that can lead to failure to take advice, inability to be wrong, incapability to use all available information etc. This characteristic is likely to be seen in those with personality factors such as:

a)      Assertive - stops taking advice from others, from using lesser details, for example since fears they will lose their dominance.

b)      Expedient - disregards rules and is non-conforming because the self is more important than others, hence demonstrates over-confidence. Needs to re-establish importance of facts etc.

c)      Venturesome - thick-skinned, needs to look at facts from logical point of view, for example.

d)      Tense - unlikely to accept help from others through suspicion, time constraints etc, hence places excessive trust in own ability.

   Even those preferring facts may be included in this category since for some the use of haphazard, illogical facts may not aid the efficacy of the brain memory mechanism. This includes individuals with personality traits such as:

a)      Imaginative – too much use of ´haphazard facts`, may need to rein in use of facts, otherwise always looking for the avant-garde and not for the relevancy.

b)      Placid – need to readdress unworried approach to facts.

c)      Experimenting – need to even out approach to methods and information. Look for relevancy.

d)      Casual – need to even out disorder, and relaxed attitude.

e)      Relaxed – need to even out laissez-faire attitude.

   The improvement methods given for this type of weakness are likely to increase the ability to work through facts and not be distracted by others. Some examples are given in Table 12.

Table 12 – Methods to increase trust in facts rather than other people

ASPECT

METHOD

Basically, the individual must accept his own limitations and must accept blame for things not 100% done by his own hand. Can have an opinion, can be right, can say sorry, can let others have last word, can be compassionate without being a sign of weakness, can admit not to knowing everything/being an expert in everything, can be bored/boring, can have low spirits for a short time. Accept no such thing as perfectionist; perfect even if others say they are. However, be positive about oneself.

Practice apologising and using own opinions even if not 100% correct. Practice by looking at standpoint of others, e.g. argue law cases, star story lines in soaps from a standpoint opposite to general public opinion. Imagine the public outcry. 

Learn to recognise what other peoples motives are – power versus money. Look for others standpoint and realise that mistakes can be made.

Empathise – look for motives, e.g. power or money.

 

Learn that others can make mistakes. Look at a quiz programme, watch news, play board games such as Monopoly, drawing games etc. and see where others make mistakes. Equate with mistaken selection of material, knowledge base omissions and weaknesses and bad decisions. Look at from one opinion only and then ask, ´What would I have done?` 

Learn that answers need time and effort from oneself – the easiest option is following someone else.

Regards the selection of input, practice taking centrally placed object, seeking out most detailed, most obvious etc. Compare to not taking the most obvious input (i.e. look at little details not big shapes), taking peripheral objects not those centrally placed, or moving objects vs stationary. Look at effects on answers and learning.

 

Make own associations to previously stored material. Develop own method, e.g. start with big details such as shape and colour going to smaller, more directional or more complicated. Use games such as mind maps and ´What where, who, etc` type questions to stimulate associations.

Increase knowledge base even if low-level. More likely to question others if have some knowledge or can relate to other topics.

Read anything and everything. Wikipedia is ideal or any encyclopaedia, magazines intended for foreign language students, newspapers, websites such as those attached to daily newspapers, TV channels, books on library shelves, school books etc. Look for short and concise texts for general information or at the start and then texts with more detail if interested. Make museum visits, watch TV programmes on unusual channels. However, be critical of the content – referring to previous knowledge or own views, checking if necessary.

Learn to encapsulate goal so clear, concise and spot weaknesses and omissions.

Work like a reporter, lecturer, etc. or write in style of Twitter, TV teletext writer for example - one sentence goals or minimal summary.

 

Stage 3 – improvement methods - re-balancing emotional worth

   Re-balancing emotional worth means the re-setting of emotional values for stored information and it comes directly from adjusting the dominance of the emotional system during events and indirectly from increasing trust in facts rather than people. Methods that can lead to this re-setting are intended for those individuals that demonstrate the following traits:

a)      Less intelligent – likely to have definitive, extreme views, interests only, for example.

b)      Affected by feelings – emotional worth and values dominate all stages.

c)      Assertive – needs to get dispense with definitive views because stops creativity, acceptance of new material etc.

d)      Happy-go-lucky – needs to dispense with demand for always ´happy` feeling.

e)      Expedient – needs to have the positive feelings of non-conformance.

f)        Conscientious – needs it to establish own ´rules` so less conforming.

g)      Shy – need to re-establish according to own views and not others.

h)      Tough minded – likely to be unfeeling or ´cold`, since unsentimental, therefore need to consider events from an emotional point of view.

i)        Tender minded – needs to readdress since normally considers emotions and facts.

j)        Imaginative – needs to readdress since has a self-requirement to be creative which can distort values.

k)      Shrewd - likely to be unfeeling/´cold`, since unsentimental and therefore, needs to consider from an emotional point of view.

l)        Placid – needs to readdress unworried attitude to facts.

m)   Apprehensive – needs to dispense with fear since insecure and adopt a more emotional balance to facts etc.

n)      Conservative - likely to be unfeeling/´cold`, since unsentimental, therefore needs to consider from an emotional point of view.

o)      Experimenting – needs to even out excessive attitude to be creative.

p)      Group dependent – needs to even out the views of the group.

q)      Casual – needs to even out disorder and hence, extremes or definitive views.

r)       Relaxed – needs to dispense with constant feeling of ´happiness`.

s)      Tense – needs to dispense with fear/panic/stress.

    The methods suggested here are likely to be successful for the re-balancing of emotional worth, especially the reduction of the overly-negative, which induces high levels of stress and fear. Some methods are:

1)      Take a deep breath. Repeat a saying, look at a picture, count to ten, meditate and think whether the event is really worth the worry you are placing on it. Ask yourself, in a month`s time, will it still be important?

2)      Accept that perfectionism does not exist. Need not be the best, biggest etc. Removes the panic that the best is not being achieved.

3)      Make a decision and act – rehashing, thrashing out thought processes and decisions can be destructive. Make a decision based on what you know, what you think will happen, and how you will feel afterwards or how you would feel if it happened to you.

4)      Do something nice, but say nothing, and expect no reward or acknowledgement from others. A simple thing like opening doors can have a huge effect, especially if you do not expect the act to be acknowledged.

5)      Use language to change emotional values, e.g. think something is not scary then is not scary, think ´calm` then excessive delight will be dampened.

6)      Live in the present and do not keep reminding yourself of failures, mistakes of the past, etc. and other things you cannot change. Think of positive events in life at the time.

7)      Accept that life is not fair and therefore whatever you do is likely not to be as successful as you or others would want.

8)      Enjoy the simple things of life and do not crave the impossible. Challenges are good, but there is a limit. Put events in perspective.

9)      Learn to let go, and not try to make everything right. Not everything can be perfect.

10)  Reduce the drama attached to a situation by putting it into perspective. With a one-sentence summary, then worries can change.

11)  Take control; take the blame; take responsibility and be confident that you have made the right decision at that time.

12)  Increase your ability to laugh at yourself or laugh silently at others, but not in a mean way.

13)  Set priorities, set goals so that all energy is directed where you want or need it.

LEARNING METHODS: THE BACKGROUND

    The previous section has described how we can optimise our learning by, for example changing the way we approach the material or by improving the various skills required for successful execution of the learning mechanism, e.g. increasing awareness. These general improvements lead us onto two specific methods, described in the following sections, by which learning can occur. The two specific methods are based on the need for recall of that learnt material from a time perspective.

   The first method suggested, described in the section entitled Short-term memory formation, is for those situations where the learnt material is either immediately recalled (less than one minute between retention and recall) and then forgotten, e.g. typing in a telephone number having read it from a telephone book, or where the learnt material is recalled within a short amount of time (probably less than five minutes) and then forgotten, e.g. remembering to take out the rubbish. The recalled material may be required just as it is learnt, e.g. recalling a sequence of steps for tying shoelaces, or it may need processing as part of a series of steps, e.g. mental arithmetic for a mathematical problem.

    The other method is for material, which has to be learnt and then recalled anytime after. This material should not be forgotten and hence forms what is called long-term memory, e.g. school learning. Again, the material can be recalled as it is learnt, e.g. procedures for working a machine, or it can be processed and used for something else, e.g. information required to answer a question. This method is described in the section entitled Long-term Memory Formation: the First Stages and then either the section for the further stages using a computer (Long-term Memory Formation: Further Stages Using the Computer) or using pen and paper (Long-term Memory Formation: Further Stages Using Pen and Paper).

    Both long-term and short-term memory methods are suggested bearing in mind the preference of the reader here that language is the primary tool in the learning and recall processes. To accommodate this preference, the learning material is converted to a language form appropriate to the individual and then this form is learnt and recalled either immediately (short-term memory formation) or at a later date (long-term memory formation). The former requires probably only oral participation (whether aloud or via inner speech), although writing notes is also feasible. However, the latter, long-term memory formation, requires often some form of written conversion to maintain the information over a longer period of time. Both methods are based on the brain memory mechanism described in the companion book and site, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`.

SHORT-TERM MEMORY FORMATION

INTRODUCTION

   Short-term memory formation is required for those situations where the learnt material is recalled immediately or within five minutes of learning and then is forgotten. There are many examples where this type of memory formation is required, e.g. typing in telephone numbers, following instructions, and in gaming reacting to specific stimuli. The words ´short-term` do not imply time-consuming methods, such as the construction of the mind map, instead this type of memory formation requires a quick and accurate way of taking stimuli in, maintaining them (or actively processing them with other information if necessary) and then accurately recalling them. Successful learning is measured by successful recall.

   From a biochemical point of view, the long-term stores (the sNCA) are not formed since recall occurs before the permanent cellular changes can be made. Recall occurs instead from the short-term memory stores (the iNCA), which still need sustained activation to shift the firing cells from the temporary sensory stores to these more longer-lasting ones. As soon as recall occurs, then unless firing is sustained by repetition, it dies out and the information is lost.

GENERAL METHOD

general plan of action

   The general plan of action for short-term memory formation and recall involves a number of steps that can be consciously carried out or subconsciously, if material and practice allow. These steps are:

1)      Input the learning stimuli – This stage requires as described earlier for informational input, the sensory pathways, as well as supplementary systems for attention and emotions. The key to success at this stage is to keep the learning material in small units (5-9 items as dictated by the proposed size of brain memory short-term memory stores, Miller 1956, Simon 1974), and therefore, it may be necessary for the learner to deliberately divide up the available material into suitably sized ´units` before learning. Sensory stimuli may be or may not be language-based or include language.

2)      Convert to own language – The available material may not be in the optimum form for people who prefer to use language to learn. Therefore, some form of conversion may be needed. If the primary stimuli are visual or auditory and non-language based, then an explanation, or description in the learner`s own words should be made. This language-based information is then added as extra material to the event in the brain firing patterns. If the primary stimuli are already language-based, then it may be necessary to convert it into the learner`s own language. This is because in some cases the language used in the original stimuli is more complicated or has repetitions, irrelevant references etc. In this way, small units of words (5-9 words maximum) can be created. At this stage, the incoming information can also be processed if necessary. This can include addition of extra material, association with previously stored material, re-assessment of feature priority and so on.

3)      Choose a memory form – Quick input and quick recall means that time-consuming memory methods are not applicable in this case. Therefore, constructing a mind map for example is not suitable since it is takes too much time and also probably the quantity of information is too small for it to be advantageous. Alternative methods have to be available and a selection of different memory forms is given in the section below. The basic principle is that the small language units formed in Step 2 have to be arranged in some form, which allows the individual to easily learn them and be able to maintain them for a short amount of time. Form may change dependent on the situation or material for example, and people may have their favourite methods, but success comes from practice and applicability to task. We assume no written notes can be made at this time, but if it is at all possible, then this type of ´memory jogger` can be useful, especially if there is a high risk of distraction between learning and recall.

4)      Rehearse the memory form – Memory formation requires that the event must be rehearsed to be retained. The sensory pathways continue firing long enough for the sustained activation condition so that the iNCA are formed. The number of times the stimulus is rehearsed is entirely individual and is related to the material itself, the conditions under which learning occurs and the delay in time between learning and recall. Rehearsal can be using loud or inner speech dependent on circumstance and individual preference.

5)      Recall and reward – Within a short period of time, the learnt or retained material is recalled. Successful recall is probably reward enough, but it should be acknowledged, whether by the individual himself or by others. This is important because it allows the learning methods to be consciously assessed and also provides encouragement for any future learning event.

   The positive feedback described in Step 5 broaches on the subject of emotional state during this short-term memory formation process. As described in the companion book, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box` and summarised in the companion website, the input, storage and recall of information is accompanied by an emotional component and therefore, the emotional system plays an important role in the brain memory mechanism. Positive or negative emotions have affects on the quality and quantity of incoming information as mirrored by the attentional system. Therefore, for optimum short-term memory formation to occur, it is suggested that the learner tries to remain as calm as possible during the process. Any shift to fear will result in a change in quality and quantity of the incoming information and will, therefore, skew the learning process and the material learnt. Sometimes, it is not possible to remain calm when the pressure is on to quickly learn something, but a few calming techniques, such as counting slowly to ten, deep breathing, focusing on something pleasurable may offset the negative effects of the fear state and keep the brain memory process at its optimum level.

memory form

   The memory form chosen in Step 3 and rehearsed in Step 4 is dependent on the material and the individual, but in most situations, the majority of people use the simple method of just repeating the converted words time and time again, either until they are needed or until learnt. The introduction of other forms therefore, can lead to improvements in memory performance or at least provide a little stimulation. Some of these alternative memory forms used for short-term memory formation are:

1)      Singing – the singing of the short language phrase conceived in Step 2 can stimulate its learning and aid recall. Everyone has their own favourite songs or pieces of music, even riffs, e.g. the beginning of the Phantom of the Opera, Star Wars and using the converted material instead of the proper words will give a rhythm to it, that can aid learning. Essentially this is sequence learning and so only the order and content are important and not being in tune or faithfulness to the original music score. 

2)      Short speeches – imagining that the short language phrase is being spoken by favourite characters, e.g. Darth Vader, relatives or friends can provide an extra dimension to the material, which makes it easier to remember. Association of the language units to corresponding figures provides a ´peg`, which can aid recall, i.e. remember the figure, remember the words.

3)      Acting up  – adding theatrical, dramatic gestures, or exaggerated, absurd or argumentative actions or words will place the material firmly in the brain memory stores. The more extreme, the better and easier something is learnt. This can be done easily since the converted form is in words and even the addition of an accent will have some effect.

4)      Link to other material – essentially this is based on the peg system recommended by many for learning. Unfortunately not everybody can link their desired word phrase to a visual ´peg` (e.g. the bun, the chair) and imagine the result and so for people who prefer language this linking has to be done with words. Therefore, the learner should associate his language phrase with key words so that a language-based description is possible. For example, if one has to remember dentist and football, imagining visually a football-playing dentist is probably difficult, but saying that the footy-mad dentist scored twenty goals or assaulted the referee (involves the ´acting up` aspect described in method 3) makes the association easier to learn. 

5)      Adding humour – laughing is beneficial to learning and therefore, adding humour to the language-based material will aid memory. Humour is individual and therefore, word-play or slapstick additions to the material will benefit as long as they bring a smile to the learner`s face.

6)      Using rhymes and short word phrases – conversion of the language unit formed in Step 2 above into something that rhymes or can be part of a phrase improves retention, e.g. the classic ´Richard of York…` for remembering the colours of the rainbow. This involves a good use of the language, but again simple, but absurd is likely to be just as effective as high-brow genius.

7)      Using abbreviations and acronyms – the value of this method is that far more than 5-9 single pieces of information in a single unit can be learnt. The abbreviation or acronym should be this size, but for every letter, another 5-9 pieces of information can be attached, using any of the memory forms described. Therefore, this method is suitable for those occasions when a larger amount of information is required.

8)      Using ´flow` methods  - flow is essentially what the method of loci is (Roman House, medieval theatre). By flowing from one point to another, information is attached to each point. Recall is made when each point is then indicated. Again, the form of this information at any point can be constructed from any of the methods described above, hence a large quantity of information can be learnt short-term. Flow means that the points must be logically joined as demonstrated by the well-known Roman house method (the learner imagines going into each room of a house and attaches the material to each room). Other possible ´flow` scenarios are:

·         the clock (points are the numbers 1 to 12, with flow going clockwise)

·         fingers (points are the fingers and thumbs, with flow going from thumb to little finger on one hand and then the other – a common memory jogger)

·         numbers (points are individual numbers, with flow following increasing number)

·         left to right (points are visual left and visual right – two points only)

·         seasons (points are the seasons and flow goes from spring to winter)

·         playing cards (points go from Ace of Hearts to King of Hearts, Ace of Spades to …and so on)

·         Russian dolls (points are the dolls and flow goes from large to small, with each doll removal exposing new information).

summary

    The key to successful short-term memory formation is a good conversion of the learning material and a suitable choice of memory form. The implication that the process has to be quick means that both steps have to be carried out accurately and confidently and therefore, any chance to employ them should be taken - the more one practices the different options available, the better the level of success. Since language plays an important part, then any improvements in language ability can have wide-ranging effects.  

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: THE FIRST STAGES

INTRODUCTION

   In the above section, methods were suggested for learning situations where the learnt material is quickly recalled and forgotten. Long-term learning is however for those situations where the material is required to be remembered over a longer period of time and since this study is for those of us who prefer to learn with language then the method suggested for doing this relies on language as its primary source of material. Circumstances where long-term learning in this form is required are numerous, e.g. for school (history texts for example), for the job (instruction manuals), for social reasons (autobiographical memories of family members) and success of the learning process is again measured by the success of the recall.

   From a biochemical perspective, learning conditions have to be such that the permanent memory stores, the sNCA are formed. The mechanism followed from input to the formation of these stores is given in the companion book and website, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`.   

OVERALL PLAN

   The overall plan of long-term learning requires a number of stages and these are summarised here and described in more detail in the following sections: 

Stage 1 – setting up an Establishment of Purpose – this step includes a declaration of why the person needs to learn the material, the steps involved etc. It provides essentially the boundaries by which the learning occurs and the material and states the intention of the learner.

Stage 2 – material assessment – in this step, the material is gathered together, read through and assessed according to overall gist, specific words, order for example. This step provides essentially the boundaries of the material.

Stage 3 – conversion of the material. For long-term memory, this step means an adaptation of material using either the computer or pen and paper. The general principle remains the same for both, which is the conversion of the material sources to a language form that is suitable for the individual and capable of proceeding to the next stage. 

Stage 4 – creation of a presentation of the converted material either on the computer or on paper. This stage uses as its basis the mind map concept (Buzan, 1974).

Stage 5– learning of the material. This stage describes the repetition of the computer presentation or mind map presentation on paper required to convert the temporary memory stores to long-term memories. 

Stage 6 – testing of the material and revision schedule. Once learnt the learning process can be re-enforced by the inclusion of a testing session. This stage also describes a revision schedule required to maintain the long-term memories formed.

   For each stage, general notes relating to the approach to learning apply and these are:

  • be comfortable with adequate lighting, comfortable seating and sufficient space, as well as adequate suitable liquid refreshment to prevent dehydration.
  • be positive and confident that the task is achievable.
  • keep concentration, attention and awareness high by removing distractions for example and be prepared to take a break during the learning procedure.
  • set a time limit so that the learning sessions have recognisable boundaries.
  • set a reward system of some degree so that there is some incentive to learn even if learning is being carried out specifically for a task (e.g. self-congratulations, points, traffic light system, and even the more indulgent such as chocolate, sweets or other treats). 

STAGE 1 - ESTABLISHMENT OF PURPOSE

    The method for long-term memory formation described in this book and based on the mechanism summarised in the companion website and book begins with the creation of an Establishment of Purpose. This is important because it directly: 

  • Establishes limits of knowledge.
  • Establishes the relevancy/importance of the material.
  • Provides a focus for this learning task.
  • Provides details of the beginning and the end (goal/purpose) of the task.
  • Leads to acknowledgement that learning may need more than one step to be successful.
  • Determines a time limit and hence, a learning schedule to give an order to the learning.

It also has indirect importance, in that it increases concentration and positive feelings because the learner can see the boundaries of the learning task. 

   An example of an Establishment of Purpose can be seen in Table 13 and these should be filled in for every learning task. Adaptations to the form can be made if necessary, including personal touches. For example, the stages of learning may be expanded or reduced depending on the material or time available, or the revision dates altered to coincide with the task.

Table 13 – Example of an Establishment of Purpose form

ESTABLISHMENT OF PURPOSE

 

 

 

Subject

 

Links to previously learnt material

 

Purpose for learning

 

Level of material

 

Stages of learning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting date and time

 

Time allowed for learning

 

Learning schedule (based on 5 mins. learning, 1 min break, max 45 mins in one session)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reward (nature and time)

 

Revision schedule (dates)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storage location of material

 

 

 

 

   The Establishment of Purpose is a record of a specific learning task and therefore, it can form part of a learning ´journal`, when collected together with others. This means that an individual can have definitive ideas of his objectives, can plan learning and review schedules and have a permanent record of what he has done and what he has achieved. A record of this nature is invaluable when learning has to be structured and over a long period of time, or with a large quantity of un-related material.

STAGE 2 - MATERIAL ASSESSMENT

general points

    There are two types of sources: sensory or linguistic and in the case of the learner who prefers to learn with language then the sensory stimuli have to be converted into a language form as determined by the individual for efficient learning to occur. Material assessment in terms of long-term memory means just this. Before this conversion can be made, an assessment of the available material has to be carried out. This means that all the material to be learnt is gathered together and:

  • Given a quick scan – facts, format and ideals are ´absorbed` by this quick scan, methods of which are given below.
  • Thoroughly read through with facts etc. marked or notes taken.
  • Critically assessed so that not only basic information is evaluated, but also the hidden information is appraised.

After this stage is completed, conversion of the material can then take place and this is carried out either using a computer described in the section titled, Long-term Memory Formation: Further Stages Using the Computer or with pen and paper (Long-term Memory Formation: Further Stages Using Pen and Paper.

the quick scan

    There are many sources of material, e.g. news broadcasts, journals, traffic signs, reports and in whatever form it is originally, the learning process begins with an assessment of it. This involves perusing and reading it.

    Reading material through for learning should be carried out in two stages: a first quick read or scan; and a second more thorough reading, so that finer details are observed.

   Consider an example of a text:  ´A car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers. It runs on roads, can seat one to eight people and normally has four wheels. In 2007, the number of cars in the world topped 806 million, burning over 260 billion US gallons of petrol/gasoline and diesel fuel. Numbers are still rapidly rising with greatest increases seen in China and India. `

This text can be scanned quickly so that the reader can identify the main topic and knows what the minor interesting details are. This is followed by a more thorough read-through where every fact is registered. The example given above is short and so the quick scan and thorough reading steps are relatively simple, but for longer texts and more varied sources of material, the two reading stages have to be carefully controlled.

    Quick reading for texts can be carried out by a number of different methods, three of which follow: 

1)      Look at four lines at a time and read through the lines, not particularly identifying words or phrases, but by absorbing the meaning.

2)      Read the first and last paragraphs thoroughly and then scan the rest for important words (usually in bold, italics etc.). Most texts introduce and summarise the contents in their first and last paragraphs respectively. Hence, a quick read of either will ´prime` the reading of the rest of the material.

3)      Scan from top left to bottom right of pages of text. In a manner similar to (1), no particular words or phrases are identified, with instead the ´meaning` absorbed through the subconscious recognition of words.

(It should be remembered that inner speech has only a speed of 200-400 words a minute, whereas scanning is much faster and therefore if possible, vocalisation of any text should not be made. This may need a bit of effort to re-educate reading practices, since we are used to vocalising, but it is well worth the effort since large increases in reading speeds can result.)

    Not only is the general meaning and intention of the material being ´absorbed` during the quick reading step, but also the reader is taking in:

1) the format of the material – sections, sub-sections, headings and subheadings (quick scan of table of contents), summary at the beginning and/or end, the use of tables, and figures, the use of bold and italics etc. This gives the structure and order of the material, which will be consciously used later.

2) any familiar material – during the quick scan, the reader should be subconsciously linking the material to any knowledge he may already have. This is an advantage of using priming before any reading, because in that way, the reader already has likely associations in place. He also is aware of the boundaries of his knowledge and is subconsciously seeking to expand it. 

    Material might also be in the form of pictures, recordings, television broadcasts etc. Therefore, in these cases, the original material should be scanned or flicked through quickly from start to finish. It can then be placed in an approximate order, even if this means placing the smallest item on the top and the biggest on the bottom (shortest material first, longest material last). Normally, the most important material would be on top/first. However, the order is purely subjective, with some preferring the longer or more complicated material first to ´get it out of the way` and others preferring to place it last ´to ease oneself into it`.

   Once a quick reading or scan is carried out, then a minute should be taken to analyse roughly what has been read and seen/heard. In this short amount of time, much can be assimilated and it prepares the learner for the second read through where details are sought after.

thorough reading and marking/note-taking

   The second read through is more thorough. Words and phrases should be read and ´savoured` with full understanding and meanings and concepts appreciated and comprehended. The first impressions and first information obtained from the quick read/scan are deepened and added to. A critical assessment of the material is carried out, not only for the information it contains, but also according to other factors and these are discussed below.

    Marking of the text or note-taking is necessary to reduce the mass of stimuli or words to those facts that will form the basis of the material learnt later. Facts are placed amidst a lot of ´buffering` material included to make material more readable, watchable, or enjoyable. To reduce distraction, the learner has to mark the original material in some way so that his attention is centred on only the information he requires. With text-based information, this is quite easy, especially if the original material can be adapted in some way. Marking key information can be carried out by highlighting, underlining, marking in the margin, and footnotes with arrows for example. The location of all the markings should be evident either by page number, numbering the paragraphs or by any personal method thought to be suitable for each case.

    However, some material cannot be marked, e.g. a podcast and therefore, in these cases language-based notes have to be written so that the facts are ´removed` from the original material to make learning easier. These notes can be worded exactly as they occur in the original material or are written in a converted form that is shorter, more succinct, or more exact. In this latter case, notes should be short word phrases (6-8 words) including the key words, which are normally nouns. Any language shortening devices can be used, including the use of dashes, abbreviations, text language, and any superfluous words should be removed. The key is to ask oneself, what do I need to know from this material. The answers form the basis of the notes written.

   Just like with the quick scan, this detailed reading step should be ordered. Material can be read or seen according to personal taste, but it should be broken down into units using a ruler or piece of paper if possible. These units may be natural, e.g. a text paragraph, or enforced. Each unit should then be read, either out aloud or using inner speech and a critical assessment of content according to the following section made for each in turn.

critical assessment of material

    Scanning and reading through of the material gives the learner an idea of its content. Key words and information are marked or noted and this forms the basis of the material to be learnt. Not all information is obvious and therefore, a critical assessment of the available material should be made. Speech, whether inner or oral, can help the process. This assessment includes:

  • Establishing the logical order, such as plot, time line or development.
  • Answering basic questions such as ´what, where, why, who (includes characterisation), how` in order to get the full gist of the material.
  • Extracting all relevant facts.
  • Recognising associations between informational units, establishing hierarchy, and acknowledging generic information (i.e. the same information shared over many events).
  • Recognising any link to previously stored material.
  • Answering the question whether the material matches its objective or not.
  • Excluding all irrelevant or repetitive material.

In addition, the learner may need to include answers to supplementary questions in order to get the full worth of the material. These include:

  • A general estimate of the material (such as is it true to life or does it give personal opinion?), the ´weight` of the material or intention of the material compared to its aims.
  • Recognising any deviation from historical, geographical, or natural world facts. Recognising the inaccuracies, or logic compared to the reader`s own knowledge base.
  • Identifying examples of splendour, suspense, contrast etc. or establishing instances of humour or irony.
  • Establishing the presence of biasness either in the material or in the reporting.
  • Identifying the emotional value of the material to the individual.

   The last point, establishing one`s own emotional value for the material supplies a personal element to the learning which may not be present, e.g. the material may have to be learnt as in the case of school work. Sometimes material reflects the emotional bias of the person or event supplying it, e.g. by the use of emotional language, or excluding relevant information. An assessment of the content will indicate such leanings and also give the learner the opportunity to establish his own value for the information he is about to learn. ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box` describes the brain memory mechanism involved in not only inputting, storing and recalling information, but also the corresponding emotional state. An emotional tag giving the value/worth of that information is attached to the characteristics of that information and this tag affects how the information is dealt with on recall. Therefore, establishing emotional value during the assessment process can dictate how much and in what detail material is learnt.

   Once the extent and content of the material is thoroughly appreciated, then the learner can go onto the next step, the conversion of the material.

Summary

    These early stages takes the raw material in whatever form it exists and assesses it. Since the reader here prefers learning with language, then the original material may not be in a form where learning is easy and therefore, a conversion stage is now required to change the material into the readers own preferred language form. This can be carried out using the computer or with pen and paper.

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING THE COMPUTER

INTRODUCTION

   This section describes Stages 3 – 6 of the long-term learning method using the computer as working medium. The computer has many advantages for this particular usage, which include:

  • Computing facilities are freely and readily available to most people or in most situations.
  • A lot of information is obtained from the Internet so the material is already ´computer-friendly`.
  • It makes information easy to handle and transfer if required.
  • Alterations, additions, repetitions to information can be made without unwieldly adjustment to order or structure.

And in this case, only the more basic and readily available computer software is required. For example:

  • In Stage 3 – the conversion of material – this step, which means that material is adapted ready for learning by creating tables of information requires only a computer programme suitable for handling text, such as Microsoft Word.
  • Stage 4 – creation of a presentation of the material (the electronic mind map) requires only software capable of this function, such as Microsoft Power Point.
  • Stage 5– learning of the material requires multiple repetitions of the programme used in Stage 4.
  • Stage 6 – testing of the material – this step requires adaptation of the material originally entered in Stage 4 and is easily carried out on the computer.

STAGE 3 -  CONVERSION OF THE MATERIAL

conversion to tables

   This section describes the conversion of the raw, ´concentrated` material achieved above into a form more effective for long-term learning using the computer. It relies on the use of the marked text/notes constructed from the available, original material. This relates to not only facts, but also opinions, background, etc. Using computer software suitable for handling text, such as Microsoft Word, the 5-9 word notes (now known as entries) are submitted into tables, created so that the layout and order of the material are represented, as well as the information. These tables are required for the next step.

tables and headings

    Text handling programmes, such as Microsoft Word, allow tables to be created using text-based facts and in the case of long-term memory, three types of table are required: the overview table representing structure, order and layout at least of the whole available material; the section structure table (a specialised type of overview table) which represents the layout and information of the individual topics that make up the material as a whole; and finally, the informational table, representing extensions to the other two tables because they include the detailed information.

   The overview table is the first table to be constructed after the material assessment stage (Stage 2) has been completed and it is used to indicate the general structure of the whole material being learnt. This is defined in the Establishment of Purpose form (Stage 1). It is based on the mind map principle (Buzan, 1974) and consists of a main heading representing the name of the topic in general and further headings and subheadings representing the subsidiary grouping and order of the material information. When there are many headings and subheadings, these subsidiary groupings form their own separate tables and these are called section structure tables. For example, in material demonstrated by the text sample given above, a possible overview table may be as given in Table 14 for the general material structure and Table 15 for more detailed section structure.

Table 14 - Example of table for general overview of material

Title of material (major grouping) – MAIN HEADING

Topics relating to major grouping – HEADINGS

Topics relating to sub-grouping – SUB-HEADINGS

 

 

 

The Motor Car

General information

definition

 

 

number

 

History

1672 - 1801

 

 

1802 - 1884

Table 15 – Example of table giving section structure (History of the motor car)

Topic – heading

Sub-headings

Entry

 

 

 

History

1672 - 1801

1672 Verbiest

 

 

1752 Shamshurenkov

   The headings are entered in a specific order in the table. In the overview table (example Table 14), the main title of the material is considered the main heading and this is written on the far left. This corresponds to the main heading drawn in the centre of the mind map. The title or main heading may not be so easily discernable when a variety of material is being considered, but to help decide, one should think of a library or Wikipedia and think of which entry this information would be available under in these information sources. A quick computer search can confirm whether the choice is correct.

   In the next column, headings are entered which represent the topics relating to this main subject. These may be in order or are random depending on the material being learnt. Possible orders are: chronological, developmental, numerical, hierarchical etc. This column is filled in as the conversion process progresses or if there is clear division of secondary subjects, it may be filled in approximately at the beginning and adapted later as more material is converted. This situation may occur if for example a book is the source of the material. In this case, the table of contents provides the headings and subheadings which are entered into this overview table. Further conversion of the book may lead to further subheadings being added due to the important nature of the information.

   The third and final column, written on the far right, consists of sub-headings relating to the sub-ordinate topics. This column may or may not exist depending on the quantity of headings in the second column. The reason for this is that this first table is an overview of the whole material and therefore, should be clear and uncomplicated. Too many secondary headings mean that it is better to omit the sub-ordinate headings so that the amount of information in the overview table remains manageable. This does not mean that this information is forgotten, since it becomes the secondary column in the section structure tables for the individual sections.

   Table 15 gives an example of a section structure table. This table is constructed in exactly the same way as the overview one, with the main heading being the topic subject (far-left column) and the secondary heading being the sub-ordinate topic (middle column). The third column (far-right) can then be either headings representing further division of the topics or as in the example given, the actual information. Just like the main overview table, this type of table can be constructed at the beginning of the conversion process if sub-ordinate headings are recognisable at this point, or may be constructed as the conversion process continues.

    These types of ´overview/structure/layout` tables have several advantages:

·         They give a concise, structure to the material, so that all information ´fits` and relates to the topic and other material.

·         They are adaptable, i.e. the order of the material can be changed as the conversion process continues, as well as additions and deletions can be made to represent information, which may be deemed at a later date to be relevant/irrelevant to the topic expressed.

·         They are easy to learn and review and hence, provide the backbone of the learning process.

  The other type of table constructed in the conversion process is the informational table, which is as its name suggests gives the detailed information extracted from the material. An example is given in Table 16.

Table 16 – Example of informational table

HEADING

SUB-HEADING

DETAILS

1672

Flemish - Verbiest

1st working steam-powered vehicle was a 65 cm-long scale-model toy for the Chinese Emperor - not known if model ever built

1752

Russian - Shamshurenkov 

human-pedalled four-wheeled "auto-running" carriage,

1769

French - Cugnot

1st self-propelled mechanical vehicle a steam-powered tricycle - problems with water supply and maintaining steam pressure

These tables are constructed as the material is searched through and converted and consist of the headings given in the overview tables and short, concise versions of the ´marked` text relating to these headings. They group together information relating to the same topics and therefore, need not be constructed in the order of the available material.

   The informational tables and possibly the overview/structure tables allow the information from the available material to be added to the tables. It is normally entered in the far-right column, because it is essentially the most specific information available and is entered in the form of entries, which can be related directly to the notes made in the original material. These are short notes, preferably 5-9 words in a manner similar to that used in text messaging, Google search entries, library entries for example. Shorthand, SMS text messaging language (such as y for ´why`, 4 for ´for`), omission of vowels, simple verbs, imperative language, use of abbreviations and acronyms are all acceptable means of keeping the entries accurate and concise.

   If the material is already in a computer format, cutting and pasting with a moderate amount of editing may aid the conversion process for the informational entries. Therefore, if this is going to be carried out then a copy of all original material should be made before any conversion is carried out.

   Once all tables are constructed, a quick review of material versus table should be made to make sure all relevant material has been included. This should be followed by a quick scan of the tables to see if order and content are logical. Any corrections can be easily made – an advantage of using computer-based methods.

summary of conversion process using tables

   In Stage 2, the material assessment stage, the material is read through in detail and important facts etc. are ´marked` or notes made. In the conversion process, these relevant facts are searched for and converted into headings and entries in tables using a computer software programme capable of handling text, for example Microsoft Word. A summary of the steps in this conversion process are:

1)      Set up a computer file in the data-handling programme to represent this set of material.

2)      Construct an overview table as given in Table 14 by deciding on the main subject and searching for main headings by scanning all available material.

3)      Construct section structure tables as given in Table 15 by searching for headings in the scanned material that are subordinate to the main topics. These can be easily identified from Tables of Contents, for example.

4)      Construct informational tables for each heading detailed in step (3). Material is scanned for the ´marked` areas. Information should be then entered concisely as short entries using any method possible, e.g. removing complicated verbs, use of symbols, or abbreviations. If applicable, information can be transferred directly from the computer-based material using the ´cut and paste` operation, but subsequent editing probably needs to be carried out (possibly far too many unnecessary words in the original text which can be omitted or replaced using abbreviations for example). Order and relevancy of entries and headings in the tables are considered throughout the conversion process.

5)      Once all the material has been converted into tables, the tables should be read through and any changes made. Logical order and conciseness of entry are key aims of the process.

6)      Save file.

the proviso

   It is obvious that learning this way may not be a ´two-minute` wonder and the problem with this type of learning method is that it requires time and effort to make it succeed. In the conversion stage, time is needed to scan the material and transfer it to the tables for example and effort is needed to think about the headings and the entries and the order and relevancy of the information. However, the advantage of this type of method is that all the working of the material helps in the learning process as indicated by the Level of Processing Theory proposed in 1972 by Craik and Lockhart. It also helps to see the information in ´raw` terms devoid of superfluous words and irrelevant details and also see the logical order. Alterations at this stage are easy to remedy and should be done, since thinking and processing at this stage refines the material even further. Once in this format, the learner can then go on to the next stage, which is the formation of presentation-style learning material using it.

STAGE 4 - CREATION OF PRESENTATION-STYLE LEARNING MATERIAL

introduction

  This section sees the converted text formatted into tables created in the previous section being transformed into a presentation-style format, which will aid the learning and revision process. The presentation style format uses the mind map as basic principle (Buzan, 1974). In order to carry this out, computer software capable of creating presentations is required, such as Microsoft Power Point. Such a programme contains functions that enhance learning by applying features of the brain memory process, e.g. animation of slide objects applying brain memory mechanisms of sustained activation for shared features, and font size and colour taking advantage of priority of characteristics associated with visual stimulus. There are three steps to the creation of this presentation-style learning material and these are:

1)      The transfer of the information from the text format to the presentation-creating software.

2)      The establishment of order of the resulting slides.

3)      The formatting of the slides.

It may be possible to circumvent these stages by the use of specific mind map construction programmes, as a form of mind map is the ultimate result. If this type of software is available, then by all means it should be used to aid learning. However, if not then the stages that follow provide a suitable alternative.

transfer of information

    This stage begins the creation of the presentation-style learning material by transferring text to the appropriate computer programme. Unfortunately, it appears that it is not always possible to transfer text tables directly from the data-handling software to this type of programme and therefore, the text transfer may have to be done in stages. It may have to be placed into the slide notes (found at the bottom of the screen) at first rather than the main part of the slide. However, everyone should try out their own data-handling and presentation programmes and if information can be directly placed from a text table to the main slide then it should be done.

    Therefore, to begin the process, a new file is created in the presentation programme and the first slide is selected and formatted as a blank presentation. This will become the overview slide giving the title and the main topics dealt with at this time. The overview text table created above is converted back into text (for earlier versions of Microsoft Word for example - Table icon on tool bar  – Format Table to Text) and the text transferred (copied and pasted) into the slide notes of the first slide. The first slide is named on the right hand side as ´Overview`.

    The section structure tables are then converted from the table format into text format (for earlier versions of Microsoft Word for example - Table – Format Table to Text) and transferred in the same way. Each table is transferred to separate blank slides. Again, each slide is named with the main heading taken from the transferred information.

    The last stage of this process is the transfer of the informational tables. These are transferred in the same way, each to separate slides and even split between slides if there is a large quantity of related material. Ideally, there should be a maximum of 8 headings per slide, but this is dependent on complexity of the information. Each slide is named according to its content.

establishment of order

    Once the converted information has been transferred to the presentation slides, the order of the slides can be established. Order is normally one of four types: sequential, branched, ´mind map` style (Buzan, 1974), or random. The order is derived from the overview slides and is necessary because it gives the transition order of the slides and hence, establishes the pattern of learning and even speed of learning and revision.

    Slide transition can be controlled in most presentation producing software by mouse clicks, hyperlinks or action buttons. Changing slides by mouse clicks is only applicable to slides that are next to one another in a sequential order, but the other two methods can be used for changing to slides in other positions and hence, are useful for branching, mind map and spontaneous/random orders.

    The insertion of hyperlinks requires two steps. The first step involves setting the colour of the hyperlink (for earlier versions of Microsoft Power Point for example - Format Slide colour scheme goes to Accent and Hyperlink plus accent and followed Hyperlink. Change to preferred colour and select ´Apply to all`). The second stage involves the insertion stage at the point where required to change slide (for earlier versions of Microsoft Power Point for example - Select text. Press ´Insert Hyperlink`, then type in the File Bookmark, then select the slide title, press OK and repeat).

    The third method involves the insertion of specialised features on the slides (the action buttons) which when selected during the slide presentation show for the learning stage will change the slide to the one indicated. These are inserted using the ´Insert Action Button` feature (for earlier versions of Microsoft Power Point for example) and can be formatted to any style desired by changing colour/size/pattern. The instruction ´Return to slide…` has to be filled in and the action button can then function during the learning phase.

    It is possible to set the order during this stage of the presentation formation, but it is more sensible to leave certain transitions, e.g. the end of sections, and back to the Overview slide to a point when no further slides are going to be added and the format is nearly finalised. Since the order of the slides in this stage may not represent the order of the slides during the learning phase, it is important to get it right, because learning has to follow the natural logic of the material as dictated by the earlier assessment stage.

formatting the slides

general points

    Formatting the slides in this case means two things: establishing how the slide looks as a whole, and secondly how learning can be enhanced by the introduction of animation of the slide features.

    The first is self-explanatory. The material, which is at present sat in the slide notes section has to be transferred to the main part of the slide and formatted into an acceptable layout. In most cases, the layout follows the mind map style (Buzan, 1974), which is deemed the most effective layout for learning. However, choice of layout reflects the material itself, its order and individual tastes. The only demand is that it is clear, uncluttered and follows the logic of the material. All features defined for the mind map can be applied here. Methods for short-term learning can also be used here so that learning is made easier for larger quantities of information. For example the installation of a flow method or humorous phrase.

   The second aim of the formatting in this case is to introduce animation. This goes back to the brain memory mechanism, which gives priority to certain visual features, movement being one of them (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`). By animating certain features of a slide, learning can be enhanced by stimulating interest and by maintaining attention for example as defined by the brain memory mechanism advocated here.

individual slide layout

  The layout of individual slides depends on the function of that slide and there are four functions:

  • The title slide - the first slide, whose function is self-explanatory.
  • The overview and section structure slides – these follow the title slide and give the main subjects relating to the topic. Section structure slides can be placed throughout the presentation and give the layout of the individual sections.
  • The information slides – these slides give the details of the topics to be learnt.
  • And lastly, what can only be termed the ´surprise` slide – these slides are not related to the information in any way, but are present to break-up the flow and add some element of surprise, by which interest and attention of the individual can be aroused again.

The layout of each slide, with the exception of this last type, the ´surprise` slide, is clearly visible from the available information, which has already been transferred in 7.3.2 into the slide notes. 

    Formatting should begin with the first slide, the title slide. For this slide, although various layouts are probably available in the presentation software, a blank format is probably the best format to choose since then the title can be placed centrally. Before writing or text transfer begins, the background colour and font colour can be selected and ideally the former should be light and the latter dark, but this is personal choice and some may prefer bright colours and others more subdued. Once chosen, a text box is inserted in the middle of the main part of the slide, and the subject title written in capitals in a big font within it. There are no hard and fast rules for formatting, the only demand being here that the title must be clear, with no doubt of the learning topic. This serves the function of focusing the attention of the learner on the subject in hand.

    The next stage is to format the overview slides and general structure slides. These slides are referred to many times during the learning and revision stages, since they describe the overall structure of the learning material. Computer software programmes for the creation of presentations have normally many templates for the layouts of slides, for example for sequential placement, in columns, branched, hierarchical, and also blank where the individual can design his own layout. It is likely that this latter style is ideal for the overview slides and general structure slides since the material is best displayed in a mind map pattern (Buzan, 1974), which is considered the best format for learning. Before the material is inserted, again background colour and font colour need to be decided and it is probably preferable to continue with the same colours as the title slide, but this is purely a matter of choice on the part of the learner.

    Formatting begins with the insertion of a text box in the middle of the slide and the title (main subject) taken from the slide notes is ´cut and pasted` in the text box or typed in. The font may need to be adjusted (Arial 16pt for example), and the heading should be in capitals. The headings are then placed around this text box in a ´clock` style format, with the first heading placed at the 11 o`clock position (top-left position) and each text box added clockwise. The number of text boxes depends on the number of headings dictated by the previous stages (the assessment of the material and formation of the tables). Each heading is then ´cut and pasted` from the slide notes into each text box. Before transference, it may be preferable to re-size the font, but this is dependent on the amount of material and number of headings present. What can be said is that the font size of these sub-ordinate text boxes should be bigger than the main title (learning requires that attention is drawn away from the general and more to the specific). To finish the formatting, lines using the formatting tool bar are drawn from the title to each text box to show its relationship to the main subject and can be drawn to each other. This main overview slide dictates the order by which material is learnt and therefore, if there is priority to the different topics then it is demonstrable from this overview slide.

    The second type of slide formatted of this type is the section structure slides, which give an overview of the content of each topic. The format of these slides, of which there can be many throughout the learning material, is the same as for the overview slides described above. The subject heading is placed centrally and the sub-ordinate headings are written clockwise around it, starting at the 11 o`clock position. Lines are added to demonstrate the relationship between the various headings and sub-headings.

    The third type of formatting required is for the informational slides and this is the most difficult because it involves a large amount of information and therefore, it is difficult to maintain clarity and order. An ideal size for learning requires only 8 pieces of information per slide, so it may be necessary to split the topics many times as the learner begins to place detailed information from the slide notes to the main part. Methods used for short-term learning described above may be applicable here in formatting the information into a form to make learning larger quantities feasible. So long as the order is maintained and relationships between the slides is clear, splitting is not a problem and is better than having a slide crammed with too much information that discourages learning just by looking at it.

    Individual slide formatting of the informational slides is dependent on the material that has been transferred into the slide notes. Layout could be one available by the programme itself or like the overview slides can be blank and designed by the individual mind map style (Buzan, 1974). The type of layout is dependent on the material and so there are no hard and fast rules. Background and font colour is again dependent on individual tastes, with some learners preferring to keep the same colours as the title and overview slides and others preferring a multi-coloured approach.

    The first job in formatting this type of slide is to place the overall topic using headings and subheadings of the table into the main part of the slide. A text box is inserted according to the layout decided and the text (heading/subheading) transferred (´cut and pasted`) from the notes into the centre of it. Sizing of the text box may have to be carried out so that the information is clear and complete. The informational details are then added to the main slide systematically according to their placement in the table and slide notes. Individual text boxes are inserted near to the heading in the order agreed (my own personal preference is left to right, top to bottom, clockwise), material is re-sized (likely to be the smallest size font possible at this stage) and then transferred via the ´cut and paste` facility into the text box. Once all the details have been placed on the slide, re-sizing of the text within the boxes can be carried out. The final act in the formatting is the drawing of lines so that relationships and sub-ordinancy of the boxes are obvious. Formatting of this type of slide follows personal tastes, but certain facilities on offer from the software programmes can be used to vary the presentation of the information, such as font size and colour, bold and italics print, capitals and lower case print, symbols and shapes.

    One additional feature added to this type of slide is the ´meditation/concentration` symbol. This symbol can be a picture of a candle, star, well-known figure, anything, which is personal to the learner and brings enjoyment or a sense of peace/relaxation to him. The aim of the symbol is that by looking at it, it forces attention back to learning or can alternatively give a short meditation-type break during the learning phase without the individual having to leave his computer. It is advantageous for slides where there is a large volume of material present or where there may be difficulty in learning. The symbol of a small size is placed in the top right corner of the informational slide, but need not be placed on every slide.

    The final type of slide added to the learning material is the non-informational, ´surprise` slide. These are blank slides or slides containing pictures/doodles/cartoons/jokes, which are inserted between sections without reference. The purpose of these slides are, just like the meditation symbols, to give the learner a break from learning, stimulate interest and re-enforce attention. The format depends on the individual and the facilities available, although most computer programmes come with some ´Paint` option, and Internet downloads of this nature are freely available.

   Once all slides are formatted, then the links between slides according to the order determined in the previous sections has to be established. This is necessary so that the learning and revision occurs in the order intended by the material and is the most efficient and logical. Links are inserted using mouse clicks, hyperlinks and action buttons as described above. 

animation

   The brain memory mechanism advocated here indicates that the visual system has preferences for certain features and these therefore, have priority in the learning process. Movement was described as one of these features and learning occurs because the shared features of events between subsequent time frames fulfils the sustained activation requirement needed to shift temporary stores into long-term memory. Therefore, by adding movement to the slides, then learning efficiency may be enhanced. This is carried out by using the animation features offered by most computer programmes designed for creating presentations. Headings and information on the individual slides are animated so that attention is drawn to them and long-term learning can occur because of the sustained firing in response to watching the features appear and change.

   Custom animation on offer is related to different areas, such as direction, sound and is extremely varied. Some examples are:

  • Type – text or features can fly onto the slide from all directions, appear like blinds, dissolve or flash once, be stretched, spiral, zoom in, for example.
  • Direction – text or features can appear as per type described above, but appear from all directions onto the slide, such as from the left, from the right, from the bottom left and from the top right.
  • Animation sound – the appearance of the feature can be accompanied by sounds such as clapping, chimes, explosions and drum rolls.
  • Order – the order of animation can be controlled by mouse click or is automatic. Text can be introduced all at once, by individual words or letters, for example.
  • Post-animation – even the time after the animation can bring about changes to the slides with features being hidden, dimmed for example.

   Many a delightful hour can be spent playing with the animation features available with a computer programme, and choice is entirely individual – what one person finds aids learning efficiency could annoy another. For the sake of simplicity, I have devised a simple animation routine, so that at least the reader may complete his presentation of the material and begin learning. Animation should be added to each slide excluding the title slide. The pattern of animation of each slide begins after the main heading has appeared in the centre and occurs with material appearing left to right, starting at the 11 o`clock position and moving clockwise or following the chronological order or order of importance of the headings present. The features should be animated in the following away:

Order of appearance dictated above, type and direction -

·         Fly left

·         Spiral

·         Fly right

·         Blinds

·         Fly bottom

·         Swivel

·         Fly top

·         Spiral

·         Fly bottom left

·         Blinds

·         Fly top right

·         Swivel

Animation sound: normally no sound, but explosions, drum rolls do however, introduce a refreshing sound if the material is intensive or long and therefore, can be used to add variety.

Order – normally automatic, but word for word appearance for longer texts, or ´as one` for shorter texts may add variety.

Post-animation – normally features should not dim or hide. This way the information remains in the visual field for longer.

   The animation features suggested here are minimal compared to availability, but the suggestions given above provide a good example of the installation of movement in the formatting of the slides and gives the time required for learning. The trick is to not make it too complicated and not to take up much time doing it. It is easy to forget that learning the material is important, not the visual appearance of it. Once each slide is animated then the formatting is complete and the material is then ready to learn.

STAGE 5 - LEARNING OF THE MATERIAL

introduction

   The brain memory mechanism requires for long-term memory permanent biological changes to occur (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`). The requirement for this process is that firing of the neuronal pathways and brain areas appropriate to the material stimulating them is sustained for the time needed for these permanent changes to be initiated. Sustained activation in conscious learning is achieved by repetition of the material. Therefore, learning with the computer requires the material to be presented to the learner in the form of a visual stimulus and then repeated as many times as needed by the individual so that long-term memories are formed, i.e. the learner learns. In this section, the material appears as a computer presentation using software for this purpose. Use of the computer satisfies conditions for the drawing and maintaining of attention, the stimulation of the visual sense with priority features such as colour and movement, the ease of being able to sustain firing via multiple repetition and the use of language as a favourite material medium. The previous section describes the process by which the material goes from its original form to a learning form as a computer presentation. In this section, discussion lies with how the material is then learnt.

learning process

   There is a series of steps to the learning process using the computer-based presentation and they are:

Step (1) - Establish familiarity with the subject before learning. This subject has already been mentioned in the Establishment of Purpose and is a rough collecting together of knowledge that the learner already has on the topic he is about to study. Even a quick flick through an encyclopaedia (computer-based or otherwise) on the subject will help. What these actions do is ´prime` the brain memory system to use the knowledge it already possesses and to expect change or expansion.

Step (2) - Read through overview and section structure slides.  Reading through the title slide, overview slide and section structure slides gives the learner a structure to his learning. It demonstrates how the various topics fit together and gives an indication of priority, interest, conflict etc.

Step (3) - Speed-read through the complete presentation. Flashing through the presentation either by a quick flick through the slides or using the left side bar next to the presentation in its creation form can give an indication of the material in more detail. It stimulates interest, prompts the ´hooking` of information to previous knowledge albeit at a low level and lets the learner see where the boundaries are for this material.  A sub-conscious building of a picture of the material occurs.

Step (4) - Intensive read through of the complete presentation. The quick speed-reading session is followed by a more intent read through of the material. This intent reading should be done either aloud, or using inner speech so that every word is appreciated. This intensifies the ´picture` began in step (4). It is possible that the presentation view of the material can be used for this stage and hence, the order of the information is shown.

Step (5) - Learn material. This is the time-consuming phase and can be carried out by one of two methods depending on the individual. Learning can be done either ´bit by bit` or ´all at once`. The former means that a little material is learnt by reading it through intensively, then repeating it several times until the mere sight of a small portion of it leads to correct prediction of what is coming. This procedure is repeated for the next ´bit`, but the previous part may be repeated first. This exercise is repeated until all the material is learnt.

    Learning ´all at once` probably suits shorter presentations, but can apply for longer ones, especially where details are simpler or of higher interest. In this case the presentation is read through in its entirety many times and the prediction tested from the beginning and continuing systematically to the end. The method chosen depends on many factors including the length and quality of the material, the subject, as well as the level of background knowledge providing the ´learning hooks`.

    In all cases learning is carried out by reading the presentation out aloud or using inner speech. The reader has to watch as the words develop and follow with speech. Temporary visual memory stores decay within 3 seconds whereas auditory ones decay within 6 seconds so using speech can sustain the firing necessary for the long-term memory physiological changes. The speed of slide appearance can be changed in most programmes to match individual capability so reading aloud is not an issue. The learning process is repeated as many times as needed and success is said to occur when the learner actually knows what is coming before the slide appears and is completely correct with his prediction. Sometimes, it may be necessary to test success during the learning process and testing is described in a later section.

    One of the most common mistakes of learning is that the learner tries to do too much at one time. He probably is under pressure to learn the contents of a manual or report in a short amount of time and tries to achieve this by cramming as much as possible. Success is more easily achieved by a carefully planned study session allowing time for learning and time for relaxing. It is suggested here that study periods should be in blocks of 5 minutes with a one-minute interval. This interval should be used to relax the eyes with eye exercises (such as cover one eye and put out opposite arm straight ahead and then look at hand, and then in the distance, repeat with other eye and hand; or cover one eye and roll other eye in a clockwise movement in both directions, repeat with other eye) or look at the meditation symbol on the slides and relax. The five-and-one learning periods should be repeated for 20-45 minutes when at this point, a five-minute relaxation break is needed. In this longer interval, the reader should get up, walk around, stretch a bit, repeat the eye exercises etc. anything so that circulation and attention is refreshed. Even if revision is going well this pattern of learning and relaxation (or a similar one determined by own personal success and needs) should be adhered to since it means that the learner remains relaxed and confident throughout the whole learning session.

   It is possible that not all material can be learnt in one go and so for this the natural breaks in the material (e.g. the end of a section, a new slide) are used to determine the limits. If tiredness does become an issue, then a shift to paper and pen for a short while may provide enough of a change to re-stimulate learning.

Step (6) - Reward. Adding reward of some sort gives the learner something to aim for and it is determined at the beginning of learning and written in the Establishment of Purpose. In this case, reward can be anything that gives the learner pleasure, e.g. the promise of a long-awaited outing, a bar of chocolate, one hour spent social networking or even just a ´pat on the back`.

STAGE 6 - TESTING AND REVISION OF THE MATERIAL

introduction

   At this point, the material has been learnt using the computer and with the material in the form of a presentation, success is measured by the correct prediction of what is coming on the slides. This involves only repetition of the material and does not really test whether it has been understood or can be applied to other things. This section describes how testing can be carried out using the computer to help learning and wider interpretation of the material and again has an emphasis on the use of language. The science behind the testing includes hypotheses on attention networks, attended and non-attended information, visual search theories, and primacy and recency rules for example (´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`).

   The testing created may form part of the revision schedule. We know that memories can decay and therefore, as well as learning, we also need to keep this knowledge fresh. By revising the material at set intervals, long-term memory stores are consolidated and therefore, forgetting is less likely to occur.

testing methods

    The advantage of using a computer for this type of task is that it is quick to install and quick to adjust to one`s own requirements. Two types of testing are suggested here:

1)      A straightforward repetition of original material.

2)      Testing of learnt material using a ´question and answer` type format.

These methods are described below, but just as for learning, testing should take place only in blocks of 20 - 40 minutes with breaks or it can be inserted within the learning periods. The learner should always be positive about the results, e.g. not 75% forgotten, but 25% remembered and reward should fit the success. Success of each testing session should be recorded either in the Establishment of Purpose or the learning journal, so that revision schedules and improvement are known. This ensures learning efficiency. 

straightforward repetition

    Testing method (1) that of straightforward repetition is carried out just like in the learning process described above. It can be carried out in parts or as a whole and can be adapted to suit the level of knowledge the learner has. For example, slides can be frozen, the slide transition increased, slides can be skipped or even the left hand side bar of the presentation can be used. In each case the learner refers back to the original to check accuracy of the recall. Just like in learning, this form of testing should be carried out aloud or with inner speech and to accommodate the need for language that readers of this book have, the learner could imagine himself giving a lecture or explaining the material to someone who has no previous knowledge of it. Success of learning is again measured on the exact repetition of the contents of each slide and reward should be given accordingly.

testing with questions

    The second method of testing involves making a copy of the presentation as it stands after the conversion and then completely adjusting the slides into the form of questions or tasks that need to be answered by the learner. For this to be successful, the learner has to have understood the material, as well as just knowing it. Slides are dealt with differently depending on the content and this is where the computer is invaluable since changes can be made quickly, and testing is repeatable with little effort.

    For overview and section structure slides, it is suggested that the format of testing is such that the learner just needs to see the main heading and then be able to fill in the relating topics. The method of creating this type of testing slide is by first making a copy of the overview/section structure slide and designating the first slide as the testing slide and the second slide, the checking slide. In the testing slide copy, the main heading should be left and also the first letters of each subheading. The rest of the words should be deleted as should all timing and animation. In the top right hand corner, a text box should be inserted with the number of alterations written in. This is an important part of the testing process, as it gives an indication of the success at the time and can be recorded to show how learning is progressing.

    The process of testing means that the learner should review the testing slide left to right, clockwise, saying aloud (or using inner speech) the names of the missing sub-headings. The names can also be written down if desired. The answers are then compared to the second slide, the original or checking slide. The amount correct at that time is recorded either as a stand-alone note or as part of the record in the learning journal, associating result with topic and slide number.

    For informational slides, the basic principle for each slide is for the learner to imagine the hardest questions that could ever be asked on the content of that particular slide. This forms the basis of testing. Therefore for each slide, a copy is made and as before, the first slide is the testing slide, and the second slide, the checking slide.

    The testing slides are created by taking the first slide and adjusting the content, which can mean inserting questions or tasks in any form relevant or appropriate to the content of that slide. A list of possible testing techniques is given below. Then, any unwanted material is deleted, e.g. words, letters, which essentially means the answers to the given tasks. The order of the slide, text relevancy and sufficient information so that the learner has a chance of remembering the content of the slide should be kept, but it may be necessary to change the format of the slide to cope with the new language and tasks. Again, on each slide in the top right corner, a text box should be added with the number of changes made in order that an assessment of learning can be made. As for straightforward repetition testing, all timing and animation should be removed.

    The testing process of informational slides follows the method suggested for overview/general structure slides with the learner looking at the slide, answering the questions or doing the tasks aloud or using inner speech. The testing order follows left to right, or clockwise. For each testing slide, checks are made against the original and the success of learning is recorded either short-term for that session or long-term in the learning journal or on the Establishment of Purpose sheet. The number of times the testing cycle is completed at any one time is dependent on the material quantity and the success achieved.

possible testing techniques

   Numerous methods are suggested for inserting testing into the presentation of the material so that learning efficiency is increased. The learner can choose the method suitable for the material or can do it randomly, adjusting it so that the testing is creditworthy. Testing can even be changed over time to add variety and stretch the learner even further. For each method, the original text is deleted and replaced by the testing format.

Possible testing techniques are:

1)      Insert ´who, what, where, why, how` type questions. The learner has to answer questions using the material.

2)      Leave only the first letter of the main words or first numbers of a series and delete all others. The learner has to guess the words or numbers. This method is not suitable for large portions of text, and is better for headings and sub-headings or numbers.

3)      Insert ´describe` type testing.

4)      Insert ´give reasons for………….` type testing.

5)      Insert ´compare…..` type testing where compare can be from slide content to previous knowledge or other information contained within that presentation.

6)      Rewrite text as true/false statements.

7)      Insert opposites/matching type testing tasks.

8)      Use ´cut and paste` facility to create disjointed texts so that the learner has to put the text in the correct order.

9)      Jumble the words of the text so that the learner has to put the text in the correct order.

10)  Omit words in the text and ask the learner to fill in the correct answer. (Or can omit half the numbers and ask the learner to fill in the correct answers. This method is suitable for chronological dates, for example.)

11)  Insert agree/disagree statements. The text may be altered so that incorrect text is observed in the testing slide.

12)  Omit the end of sentences so that the learner has to finish off the texts.

13)  In the case of tables, omit column or row entries and ask the reader to fill in the missing numbers or vocabulary.

14)  Create a word tree and ask the learner to fill it in.

15)  Find the correct word amongst a jumble of irrelevant words.

16)  Insert ´what would happen if….?` type questions instead of the text.

17)  Insert ´what comes next….?` type questions instead of the text. This method is good for chronological text.

18)  Create ´if ….then…..` type scenarios.

19)  Use keywords and ask for an explanation.

20)  Create multiple choice questions.

21)  Insert ´what would you like……?` type questions so that opinion is introduced.

22)  Create acronyms and ask the learner to fill them in.

23)  Create ´spot the difference` type tasks.

revision schedule

    The advantages of using a computer for long-term memory learning are the ease of storage and recall and the ease at which the material can be tested. It is common knowledge that memories fail with time. Buzan (1974) reported that in general immediate recall showed an efficiency of only 75%, with a slow decrease to approx 35% after 5 hours. Decline may not be even with more material being remembered at the beginning and end or in the middle if associated with great personal interest. In most cases, learning is associated with a rise in recall shortly after learning said to be due to assimilation of the material, followed by a steep fall so that 80% is lost within 24 hours.

    Buzan (1974) suggested a revision schedule to counteract this decline and this is advocated here in this book, too. He suggested that about 10 minutes after the learning session, the material should be reviewed for about 10 minutes. This involves complete revision and in this case, the straightforward testing method described above in 7.5.2 is recommended. After 24 hours, Buzan (1974) suggested that the material should be reviewed for only 2-4 minutes with the learner writing down everything he can remember. This should be checked against the original and any additions and corrections made so that the material is 100% correct. For this type of revision, it is suggested here that the learner uses the testing methods described above (maybe the straightforward repetition method) and success should be recorded. After 1 week, Buzan (1974) suggested that this revision method should be repeated and again after one month. This is also recommended here, again using either the straightforward repetition or the testing slides created, or both. All results and the revision schedule should be recorded in the learning journal or at least in the Establishment of Purpose. In this way, all the hard work done in the learning stages is not lost and the material remains fresh. It also allows additional material to be added.

SUMMARY

   The last few years have seen vast changes in the capabilities of computers and therefore, it is sensible that we adapt our learning methods to accommodate the rising use of computers in our every day lives. It is not suggested that the above method of learning using presentation style techniques is suitable for every learning situation, or even for everybody, but if it increases effectiveness and allows the learner to store and review material at ease then it should be considered as a useful tool. 

 

LONG-TERM MEMORY FORMATION: FURTHER STAGES USING PEN AND PAPER

INTRODUCTION

    The previous section shows a method of long-term learning using the computer, but a computer is not always at hand, and sometimes time is short and the material not always suitable. In this section, I describe an alternative method for permanent memory formation using pen and paper, again based on Buzan`s mind map (1974). There are other methods available such as the card file box system (Leitner, 2011), but my personal opinion sways towards the less cumbersome method of mind mapping where not only the facts are learnt, but the associations between them.

   The general notes about long-term learning described above apply here too, as does the Establishment of Purpose. Learning begins just like with the computer-based method with an assessment of the material with a quick read through first followed by a more thorough reading stage. A critical assessment of the material is made according to that described above. The differences in the use of computer or paper and pen become clear at Stage 3 and Stage 4 where the marked text or notes are then converted from their original form to a learning form – the paper-based mind map.

STAGES 3 and 4 - CREATION OF THE MIND MAPS

general points

    In the previous section, the material is converted into a learning form using the computer software available for creating presentations and is learnt using the presentations created. However, in this case, where paper and pen are being used, the material is converted instead into drawn mind maps (Buzan, 1974) and learnt from these. This method is suggested because it also ticks many of the boxes required for the biochemical mechanisms for long-term brain memory formation, such as providing repetition for sustained activation, allowing the use of language which in this book is the preferred form, and forming associations between information so that processing and re-enforcement of previously stored material occurs, hence creating memories and strengthening pre-formed ones. For the purposes of long-term learning suggested here, a more simplified version of mind mapping is proposed. Similarities and differences between both can be seen in Table 17.

Table 17 – Similarities and differences between conventional and proposed styles for mind maps

CONVENTIONAL STYLE

PROPOSED STYLE

 

 

Main heading in centre. Text in capitals in medium sized capitals. Text placed in text box circular or square shape, or drawing.

Main heading in centre. Text in small capitals. Text placed in square or cubed text box. No drawing.

Subsidiary headings placed along lines leading away from main heading. Text written in different directions.

Subsidiary headings placed in circular shapes, and lower placed headings in triangles. Linked by lines higher headings. Text written right way up so easier to read and in larger font than main heading.

No order of headings.

Order (can be established with important first) starting top left, going right and clockwise down and around.

Information placed along or at end of linking lines.

Information placed in shapes or written at ends of lines.

Information contained on mind map with no or little reference to external information.

Information contained on mind map with reference to information held elsewhere, plus location of information if required.

Words properly spelt.

Words properly spelt, but also use of abbreviations, acronyms etc.

Use of keywords, small phrases.

Use of keywords, small phrases.

Use of capitals, small letters, symbols, small pictures and cartoons.

Use of capitals, small letters, symbols, but little use of drawings, cartoons etc. Information in capitals has higher priority/importance.

Use of lines to link information with lines thicker towards the centre and thinner moving away. Lines same length as word entry. Can be wavy or arrowed.

Use of lines to link information. No difference in thickness and length, dependent more on available space rather than word length. Lines can be wavy, arrowed, dotted etc.

Use of bullets or numbers.

Use of bullets or numbers. Also, inclusion of memory methods used for short-term memory to aid learning (Section 5).

Full use of colour and highlighters.

Less use of colour, e.g. red, blue if necessary and highlighters, e.g. fluorescent yellow.

    As far as the tools for this type of learning are concerned, I suggest that for ´paper`, single sheets and a suitable folder are used rather than bound notebooks. These may be neat and tidy, but are restrictive in terms of learning and note adaptation. The question of pens is purely individual, and whilst I prefer black pencils and black, blue, red and green ball-point pens I accept that others may prefer other colours and highlighters. Whichever tools are used, a constant supply of writing materials and a good filing system for the created papers are necessary.

conversion to the mind map headings (Stage 3)

    Long-term learning using paper and pen begins the same way as that using a computer. The available material is assessed through a quick scan and a more thorough reading. Marking of the text using pens, pencils or highlighters or note taking is carried out. In the method using the computer, this marked text or notes provide the basis for the tables that will eventually form the presentation slides. In this method, the marked text or notes provide instead the basis for the headings and informational entries that will be constructed into a mind map on paper (Stage 4). Therefore, the headings and entries in this case have the same form as that for the tables and slides in the long-term learning method using the computer. Headings or entries are:

  • Main heading – this is written in small capitals, in full text and is the title of the available material in general or specific topics. It should be succinct and accurate. 
  • Subsidiary headings – these are topic headings or headings subordinate to the main headings. They follow a hierarchy with importance diminishing with distance from the centre and main heading.  The headings used can be obtained from the table of contents, or section headings or can be the learner`s own headings as in form of a reference that might be seen in an encyclopaedia (computer or paper-based) or in a library. For example, standard entries such as geography, characterisation or keywords representing a group of facts.  The subsidiary headings should be written using full words, except in the case of recognised standard headings. They should be written larger than the main heading, so that attention is drawn to them.
  • Informational headings or entries - these are more detailed and contain the facts as found in the material. Hence, they are wordier, although a limit of 5-9 words should be observed. This limit is helped by using abbreviations, symbols, text messaging language etc. and omitting superfluous words and irrelevancies. They can also include short-term learning methods described previously to increase the amount of information and effectiveness of learning.

construction of the mind map (Stage 4)

    As the material is being read aloud thoroughly or afterwards by looking only for the markings and notes, the required information independent of form is transferred in a logical manner from the original material to paper. Three types of mind map are created equivalent to the three types of slides created in the computer-generated presentation version: the overview mind map, section structure mind map and informational mind maps. Two additional pages are included: the ´meditation/concentration` picture page and the ´surprise` page.

    The overview mind map, based on the layout suggested by Buzan (1974) and recommended according to my own preferences in Table 17, is created by taking a fresh piece of paper and writing the main subject as a heading in a ´box` placed in the centre of paper. This ´box` can be a circle, oval or any other shape desired, but I prefer a square or cubed shape for this important heading. The text is written in small capitals. Starting top left, and proceeding right and then round clockwise, headings are written in circles and joined to the main heading in the centre by lines. The order of these headings comes from the facts and sometimes there is a clear, logical order, such as chronology, developmental stages or order of appearance and sometimes random. The location of each source of the subject can be included in the box, e.g. page numbers, paragraph numbers or some pre-determined, personal numbering system.

    Section structure overview mind maps are created like the overview page regarding style and layout, but the main topic is the central heading and sub-headings representing related topics stem from that. These headings are taken from the markings in the material and therefore, good, critical assessment at the earlier reading stage makes these mind maps complete and accurate. The style of the headings is as for the overview page and lines are used to show relationships. A variety of shapes, colours, symbols etc. can be used to change the outlook and show priority etc. From these mind maps the learner is led to the informational ones for each topic so these links must be clearly marked.

    If necessary, informational mind maps can also be created giving details to the topics shown on the section structure pages. The topic heading should take the central position and then the information written around it and linked with lines and arrows as appropriate. Details need not be complete if especially complicated, since the learner can use just paragraph numbers, or locations in the original text as reference.  

    Two additional pages are created: the ´surprise` page and the meditation/concentration page. The ´surprise` page can be a picture, joke, etc. anything that can stimulate interest again in the topic. This is placed randomly in the mind map collection. The second page is a picture that leads to a relaxing feeling, e.g. a picture of the sea or clouds, and is therefore, termed the ´meditation/concentration` page. Looking at this allows the learner to re-focus attention and gives a short break from learning without leaving the material.  This is equivalent to the meditation symbol placed on the presentation slides.

    Once created the mind maps are filed with the Establishment of Purpose. The order of the mind maps begins with the overview page, followed by the section structure overview page of the first topic (either found top left or in chronological order on the overview page), and its supplementary informational mind map pages if present. Next comes the next section structure layout page found on the right of the one above and this is continued until all pages are filed in order. This order gives the order of learning so it is important it is logical. To prevent confusion, once the order is established, each mind map should be numbered, e.g. using numbers, letters of the alphabet, Roman numerals, Greek letters etc. just in case the pages are shuffled. Surprise pictures are added at random throughout the file and the meditation picture placed after the overview page. These should not be included in the numbering scheme.

    Once filed, the learner should do a final check-through and go through the mind maps once more. It may be necessary to change the order, rewrite some pages for example as now an overall layout of the material can now be seen. Omissions, repetitions, biasness etc. may now be apparent and the learner has to decide whether these will be dealt with or ignored, but they should be noted on the relevant maps. This completes the conversion stage and now the material is ready to be learnt.  

STAGE 5 - LEARNING THE MATERIAL

    The learning process using the mind maps consists of a straightforward repeat of the material with material being learnt on show and other material covered. Repetition of the material is paramount. Just like the computer learning experience, the learning process using paper and pen has a series of steps and these are: 

Step (1) - Establish familiarity with the subject before learning. Just like for the learning process using the computer, the learner should write on a piece of paper in ´mind map` style everything he knows already about the subject. This ´priming` provides the basis on which the new learning will form.   

Step (2) - Read through the overview mind map.  Reading through the overview map gives the individual a structure to his learning and shows how the mind maps will fit together, hence how the facts fit together.  

Step (3) - Speed-read through the complete collection of mind maps. This stimulates interest and prompts the ´hooking` of the information to the previous knowledge. This should be carried out aloud or using inner speech.  

Step (4) - Intensive read through of the complete collection of mind maps. The quick speed-reading session is followed by a more intent read through of the material, which is done either aloud, or using inner speech. This intensifies the ´picture` began in step (4).  

Step (5) - Learn material. For this stage, blank pieces of paper are required so that unwanted material can be covered. The learning stage begins by placing the meditation picture above the overview page. The meditation page allows the learner to take a short break to re-focus attention if he notices that efficiency is lower or distractions creeping in. The learning process begins by learning first of all the overview page. This page is placed below the meditation page and the right side of it is covered with a piece of paper. The text heading on the top left is then read out aloud (or using inner speech). The reading and speaking is repeated and then the learner should look away and try to say the heading. By looking at it again a check can be made and if it is correct, then learning can proceed to the next heading (on the right of the first). The process is repeated including a check on whether the previously learnt material can still be remembered. This process is repeated for each heading going left to right and then clockwise. Once successfully learnt, the overview page is placed to the left of meditation page and the first section structure overview page is taken and placed under the meditation picture. Learning from this point on can be done either ´bit by bit` or ´all at once`.   

    ´Bit by bit` learning means a small portion of a page is learnt at a time. If all the text is on one piece of paper then the rest is covered, leaving only one or two headings free. (The learner could look away, but it is easier to cover). The text should be read aloud or inner speech should be used and then this reading should be repeated. After every stage, the learner has to look away and say what has been learnt. The process is considered a success if this can be done correctly. Then another piece is covered and the whole process repeated. The order of learning goes left to right then clockwise and the process repeated from one page to another. It starts with the section structure page, followed by the related information pages. Informational pages are placed to the left and right of the section structure overview page for learning. This way the learner can see the relevance to the general picture. Once learnt, the next section structure overview page is taken and the process followed as above, going from page to page in the order established in the previous section.

    Learning ´all at once` probably suits smaller amounts of material, but it can apply for longer ones, especially where details are simpler or of higher interest. In this case, the mind maps are read through in their entirety many times and the prediction tested from the beginning and continuing systematically to the end. Placement of pages occurs as for ´bit by bit` learning with the meditation page central top, overview to the left of the meditation picture, section structure overview page underneath and any informational pages to the left and right of this.

   Just like with computer learning the most effective learning is achieved in a carefully planned study session with 5 minute learning blocks with a one-minute interval for a maximum of 20-45 minutes. At this point, a five-minute relaxation break is needed which should include movement.

 

Step (6) - Reward. Just like in the computer-aided learning method, adding a reward, determined before the learning session begins helps the learner to focus and learn effectively. This is recorded in the Establishment of Purpose.

STAGE 6 - TESTING AND REVISION OF THE MATERIAL

    Testing of material learnt using paper and pen takes the form of either straightforward repetition of the learning material or completing specially constructed testing pages, just like that suggested for the computer-based learning method.

    The straightforward repetition method is well known, for example used in the use of the card filing system for learning (Leitner, 2011), but here I suggest the use of paper and the original mind maps constructed for the learning material. As in learning, the meditation picture is placed central top, and the testing begins with the overview page, which is placed below the meditation picture. Parts of the page are covered and the learner has to say out aloud or using inner speech what is on the page. This is checked against the original. The process is repeated with the covered material. Another way is using a blank piece of paper and all headings have to be written down without mistake. Once correct, the overview page is placed top left of the meditation picture and the first section structure overview page placed centrally below the meditation picture. Parts of this are covered and again the learner has to say out aloud what is there. The process is repeated for every page of the mind map collection and all the time, the texts are spoken aloud or silently. A record of success of recall or difficulties should be made so that the efficiency of the learning process can be made.

    Just like in the learning method using the computer presentation, testing can also be carried out using questions and tasks constructed by the individual. These can be constructed according to the techniques suggested above and written on pages that mirror the layout of the mind maps they apply to. In the case of the overview page, the main heading is should be left and for all the section headings, only the first letter is written inside the text box. For the section structure overview mind maps, the main heading remains, but the rest of the sub-headings are represented by only their boxes/circles and the first letter of the missing heading or any appropriate questions and tasks as indicated above. The informational mind maps are dealt with in the same way, except there should be more emphasis on including testing techniques, such as those suggested for the computer method. In the top right corner of each testing page, a box should be added indicating the number of alterations made. This allows success to be monitored.

    The process of testing means that the learner should review the testing mind map left to right, clockwise, saying aloud (or using inner speech) the names of the missing sub-headings and answering the questions or tasks, if present. These can also be written down if desired. Answers are then compared to the original and the amount correct recorded either as a stand-alone note or as part of the learning journal. 

    The number of times the testing cycle is completed at any one time is dependent on the material quantity and the success achieved. Just as for learning, testing should take place only in blocks of 20-45 minutes with breaks or it can be inserted within the learning periods themselves. Reward should fit the success achieved.

   Once the material is learnt and tested, a revision schedule should be planned out according to the computer version to prevent forgetting. This should be recorded in the Establishment of Purpose or in the learning ournal since permanent memory formation requires refreshment of the stimulus to maintain the long-term memory stores. Therefore, just like with the computer-learning method, safe-keeping of all papers is paramount.  

SUMMARY

   In many ways, long-term learning using paper and pen is comparable to the method using the computer. The material is assessed for its content and converted to a form, which makes learning easier and quicker. In this case, instead of using computer programmes and transferring the material to a presentation-type format, the information is drawn as mind maps (Buzan, 1974) and learning and testing occurs using these instead. Neither method is an easy option, since both require time and effort, but sometimes one is more favourable than the other. What can be said though, is that the effort put in at the different stages pays off in the end with learning efficiency and longevity of the stored memories.  

EPILOGUE

   Not everyone looks the same, has the same attitudes and interests and in the same way, not everyone learns the same. Our individuality in lifestyle, levels of experience and stimulation as well as more obtuse factors such as our attitudes and approaches to learning via our personality mean that learning method and success of learning is personal. This website accompanying the book ´Learning with Words` (Salt, 2012) describes how some of these factors can be optimised in order that learning becomes more effective.

    Individuality also means that there can be no single strategy for learning. People develop over time their own favourite methods and these are relied on because they work to some degree, whether from a biochemical basis, fulfilling the conditions required to turn sensory stimuli to permanent memories, or from a task basis, where the method leads to successful completion of a required task. Not all methods are suitable for everyone and often people become frustrated because highly regarded techniques appear to be less successful for them than their favourites. This study describes learning strategies for those of us whose strengths point towards using language to learn. It describes a method for learning material that has to be recalled within a short amount of time and two methods for recall after a longer period of time. The methods are based on the biochemical mechanism for brain memory described in the companion site and book, ´Brain Memory: Outside the Box`.

    Short-term learning relies on converting the material to a form that satisfies the limited nature of the short-term memory stores. Language ´tricks` allow these stores to be artificially expanded and the required processing, repetition and increase in interest and attention ensures that the material is learnt and can be recalled at will within the time limit. Everyone has at least one method for doing this type of learning (usually counting on the fingers), but this study possibly introduces new ones that can improve efficiency, or at least add variety.

    Long-term learning is more time-consuming and requires more effort on the part of the individual to be successful. This does not just mean learning, but also includes a revision schedule to maintain the knowledge. What is the point of spending hours learning something only to find the information gone within days or months.

    Since this book and website is intended for those of us who prefer to use language to learn, we have to start with a look at the learning material. Videos, podcasts, TV documentaries are major sources of information, but are hardly ideal learning material for people who need to see something written down in order to learn it. Therefore, the strategies proposed here for long-term learning begin with an assessment of the available material and a conversion of it to the form favourable to us, i.e. conversion of all material into our own ´language` (by this I mean level and personal vocabulary, not just whether it is English or French for example).

    The next stages are dependent on whether a computer or pen and paper will be used, but both are based in principle on Buzan`s mind map concept, a well-known memory enhancing ´tool`. The former method means that the now personalised material is used to form computer presentation slides that can be learnt and revised as a presentation. The latter method means that the personalised material is drawn as mind maps and learnt with the covering and swopping of pieces of paper. Both require time and effort, but the proposed learning, testing and revision schedules hopefully make the process more efficient. Although specific stages of the process can be directly positively related to specific stages of the biochemical mechanism advocated here and described in the companion website, overall the strategies encompass the biochemical benefits of increased processing and repetition.

   I hope that you have found the study of some use, even if you haven`t found all the answers you need to make your learning as effective as it can be. All that is now required is to wish you success in whatever learning task stands before you.

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