Improving Memory Recall

Memory recall is one of the three major components of memory – along with encoding and storage. Even if you don’t know about the science of memory recall, you know how it works.

Imagine you’re studying for a test in history. As you’re reading information you want to remember, you’re encoding it. Eventually, some – hopefully most! – of the information will move into memory storage in the long term memory. You can help with encoding and storage with different study strategies, such as note taking and repetition.

On test day, you need to work with memory recall to get those answers from your brain and onto your paper. Memory recall, like other parts of memory, is a somewhat mysterious process that depends on physical factors in your brain as well as neurochemistry. Even though it’s mysterious, though, we still know something about it and something about the way to improve memory recall.

Types of Memory Recall

In memory tests, scientists look at three different types of memory recall: free recall, cued recall, and serial recall. You use these things in your everyday life, too.

Free recall is essentially when you’re freely remembering items without prompting. If someone asks you to remember a list of words and later asks which words from the list you remember, that’s free recall. IN cued recall, you get reminders for some of the information – a color, place, song, or associated word would all work. Not surprisingly, cued recall can help people remember more information, even pieces of information they thought had been lost. Serial recall is simply the ability to remember items or events in a certain order.

Association and Memory Recall

One of the best ways to boost memory recall so you can more easily retrieve those important facts, names, dates, or grocery lists from your mind is to associate them. This works particularly on a visual level.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty visual learner. I remember information I read more readily than information I hear, and I remember many events in a visual manner. This is how most people are, which is why we cater more toward visual learners in classroom settings.

Associating non-visual information with visual information can be really helpful. For instance, associate your grocery list with a wacky picture that involves all the ingredients on the list. It seems silly, and it takes a bit more time to work through your list, but it actually does work.

Another option is to associate everything on your list with a body part. Think about sticking pickles on your fingers, rubbing cream cheese onto your nose, or stepping on eggs. At the grocery store, you can start with your head and work your way down, and you’ll be more likely to remember what’s on your grocery list.

One great way to improve memory recall over time is to train yourself to use these and other association techniques. Here’s a suggestion. Next time you head to the grocery store, write down your list, but stick it in your pocket or purse after you’ve associated the items on your list in some way. Then, go through the aisles trying to remember every single thing on your list.

Save yourself frustration by double checking the list before you check out. At first, you might forget three or four things, but eventually, you’ll build memory recall skills and will be able to make it through the store with no written list at all!

Memory recall isn’t the only important step in creating and using memories, but when it malfunctions, it’s the one that can be most obvious and frustrating. Just learning some association techniques can help improve your memory recall in just a few weeks!