How can the use of mental images, concepts and schemas to organise thinking help us to improve our memory?
Cognitive psychology is primarily concerned with the study of subjective internal mental states. However, the subjective nature of cognitive activities such as thinking, memory, learning, perception, and language make it difficult to directly and empirically test these mental processes. Cognitive psychology therefore relies on a fundamental assumption of reductionism, where the dynamic and convoluted cognitive processes mentioned above are reduced to manageable and pre-agreed hypothetical constructs which can be operationalized, and thus empirically measured to highlight relationships between specific variables. Yes, many developments in Cognitive Psychology have come from the study of brain damaged patients, brain scans, and testing their abilities, or lack of in speaking, remembering, writing, and so forth. The relationships between several such constructs will be discussed to show how organisation of thinking can enhance memory. Firstly, the constructs deriving from the process of ‘thinking’, namely production of ‘mental images’, ‘concepts’ and ‘schemas’, will be described. Empirical evidence and information cited in Spoors et al.(2011) will be used to demonstrate that constructs relating memory, such as ‘recall’, are enhanced by employing these organised ways of thinking.
The first construct to be discussed is that of production of ‘mental images’. Generally semantic thought is the most typical mode of thinking; this is experienced as inner dialogue or thought in words. However, it has been shown (Raugh and Atkinson, 1975) that recall of verbal or written information is markedly enhanced if learning is accompanied by production of a mental image. Spoors et al. (2011) suggests this ‘key word technique’ is very effective in learning vocabulary from a foreign language. They give an example using the French word ‘poubelle’ meaning bin. Similar sounding English words ‘pooh’ and ‘bell’ are suggested to produce an image of an upside down bell used as a bin, and a person holding their nose and saying ‘pooh!’, the more unusual the image, the better. Raugh and Atkinson (1975) also found the key word technique to be very successful when learning a new language. They found that participants using the key word technique recalled 88% of a list of 60 Spanish words, compared to only 28% who did not use the technique. Another memory strategy using mental imagery is ‘mnemonics’, where rhyme or initial letters are use to produce an image linked to information to be remembered. I clearly remember the mnemonic My Velvet Elephant Munches Jam Sandwiches Under Nasty Prickles, which I was taught at school over 20 years ago, to remember the order of the planets in the solar system. As you say in your reflective writing in task 2, you could improve on the structure and paragraphing of your work but you did not have the time for editing. Strictly speaking, you need to provide a reference in the text for Raugh and Atkinson to make it clear you took this from Spoors et al. If you consult the original source, then you would need to reference Raugh and Atkinson in your reference list at the end. However, you have stipulating higher up in your essay that you are taking all your empirical evidence from Spoors et al., which will suffice for this essay.
The above example cites in Spoors et al. (2011) and the empirical study by Raugh and Atkinson (1975), demonstrate that by consciously adding an iconic element to our typically semantic thought processes (i.e. by re-organising our thought process to include a mental image), recall is dramatically enhanced. Spoors et al., (2011) suggest this is because the mental image provides another cue for recall, and the unusual nature of using imagery seems to secure the information in our memory. Good use of general referencing here.
The second construct to be discussed, which is related to...
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