How Can Mental Images, Concepts and Schemas Improve Memory

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The brain is constantly recalling and forming new memories and the part of the brain that deals with memories is the hippocampus, which is located near the centre of the brain. Three different types of memory are used to store different types of information. Semantic is factual knowledge such as remembering capital cities. Episodic is personal past experiences, what a person had for breakfast for example and procedural memory is how to do something such as drive a car. Organising thinking using various methods can improve memory recall. This essay will consider three methods: mental images, concepts and schemas using a range of research studies including the work of Raugh and Atkinson (1975), Bousfield (1953) and Bransford and Johnson (1972, all cited in Spoors et al, 2011).

A mental image is a picture that a person might make up in their head from a keyword that sounds like the word they want to learn. This enables a connection to be made between the mental image and the word to be remembered. This is found to be very useful when learning a foreign language. Spoors et al (2011) give an example of the French word ‘Poobelle’ which translates to bin in English. A picture of a bell being used as a bin with a bad smell is an effective mental image which may help the memory recall the word ‘poobelle’. A simple experiment carried out by Michael Raugh and Richard Atkinson (1975 cited in Spoors et al, 2011) proved that making a mental image of a keyword could improve memory recall. Two groups of participants were asked to remember a list of 60 Spanish words. One group used the keyword technique and the second did not. When tested later the group that used keywords to make a mental image scored considerably higher than the group that did not. A poet called Simonides designed a technique called the ‘method of loci’. (Spoors et al, 2011) This method works by using the mental images and linking them to a relevant location the thinker knows normally in a...
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