January 9, 2019

Drawing makes "a seamless integration of semantic, visual and motor aspects of a memory trace."

"Any time you add an additional form of processing to your learning, you’re going to get a benefit over and above what’s in the nature of the stimulus. If you’re reading a list of things and trying to remember them, it’s going to be a lot more difficult than if you actively engage with each item on the list."

From "A Simple Way to Better Remember Things: Draw a Picture/Activating more parts of your brain helps stuff stick" (NYT).

31 comments:

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

rats.
indelibly etched on my hippocampus

gilbar said...

i was going to say; Plus, sometimes you get cool picture of rats!

Unknown said...

I think taking notes (by hand) does the same thing. I have to tell students to do this these days!

Virgil Hilts said...

One thing a smart phone is good for is never having to remember things/write them down -- just take a photo (TAP). Park in some giant parking lot-TAP space number. See a book/something else you want to remember-TAP. See assignment written on chalkboard-TAP. Some info on TV-freeze frame/TAP. Downside - I have to keep a record of my phone # on my phone because otherwise I wouldn't remember it.

rhhardin said...

I do a poem

In the year fourteen hundred and ninety three
Columbus sailed the dark green sea

Yancey Ward said...

This is why textbooks have problem sets. However, it is true that too many people don't apply this truth in other situations.

bagoh20 said...

To remember people by their face, my method is to see it, say it, smell it, and then lick it.

I don't remember them any better, but they sure remember me.

gilbar said...

in fourteen hundred and ninety one
Columbus sailed west towards setting sun

HoodlumDoodlum said...

What a coincidence--I was reading just last night on the Art of Memory and Simonides of Ceos Wiki pages. I remember it like it was yesterday!

YoungHegelian said...

The linking of visual to verbal memory harkens back to Renaissance memory techniques. Not having Google & before Gutenberg, not even books, handy, the Ancients & early Moderns devoted a great deal of energy to training the memory.

Two good texts on the subject are Frances Yates magisterial The Art of Memory & the more biographical Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci by the noted China scholar, Jonathan Spence.

Henry said...

"Any time you add an additional form of processing to your learning, you’re going to get a benefit over and above what’s in the nature of the stimulus. If you’re reading a list of things and trying to remember them, it’s going to be a lot more difficult than if you actively engage with each item on the list."

ANY time you add an additional form of processing?

Read the list.
Draw the items.
Eat the drawings.

FIDO said...

Good to know

Henry said...

Drawing is good, as long as you're drawing what you're reading and not drawing rocket ships. Unless you're reading about rocket ships.

The opposite side of this is that it is much easier to explain something if I have pencil and paper handy. Or, if it's about programming, I can type as I talk.

stevew said...

I discovered in college (my sophomore year) that taking notes in class, rather than sitting there actively listening and otherwise engaging, dramatically improved my ability to remember and understand what was said.

Smilin' Jack said...

If you’re reading a list of things and trying to remember them...

Jesus, just put the list on your phone.

tim maguire said...

The memory palace take some practice, but it's much quicker, simpler, and more flexible than drawing what you're trying to remember.

PM said...

A, E, I, O, You beautiful doll.

Fernandistein said...

We don't need no stinkin' lists.

Char Char Binks said...

"I think taking notes (by hand) does the same thing. I have to tell students to do this these days!"

You think wrong.

The knowledge you're "trying" to impart is supposed to end up in the brain, not on paper; it's already on paper, or online. The only notes I ever took in class I took not to help me learn, but to fulfill a teacher's requirement. It's a worthless exercise.

The archaic practice of lecturing, begun when access to books was very limited, has been proven to be among the least effective pedagogical techniques.

Unk, what good are you?

Dave said...

"You think wrong."

A rude and arrogant response. You should have taken more notes in courteesy class and you would know that.

Rockeye said...

Honestly. In school one should do the reading before class, then use the lecture time to engage with the material. I found listening and formulating questions worked best for me, and not taking worse than useless. Unless of course the instructor says "this will be on the test." Write that down. Your mileage may vary.

Ann Althouse said...

Some of you are just saying that there are alternatives to relying on memory. Of course! The advice here assumes you WANT to use your memory. What is effective?

BTW, Young Hegelian, the article talks about the memory palace method and says that drawing is similar.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Rockeye said...
Honestly. In school one should do the reading before class, then use the lecture time to engage with the material. I found listening and formulating questions worked best for me, and not taking worse than useless. Unless of course the instructor says "this will be on the test." Write that down. Your mileage may vary.

1/9/19, 2:09 PM


That sounds very nice. Compare and contrast with training methods used in large corporations. When's the last time you got, or were able to get, a deck before the meeting?

---

OT: Yesterday Instapundit noted that RBG was missing a second day of arguments that Tuesday, Jan. 8. It is now Jan. 9. Is Justice Ginsburg back at the bench or is this Day 3?

I would say that she should retire and leave with dignity and to enjoy/endure the rest of her life but really, it seems she has no rest of her life. No family, at least no husband and no children AFAIK. What amusements? More planking?

She sees that she may as well die in the saddle. Unfortunately (for her, as I daresay she would wish it) there is no rational scenario where she might be bravely killed in action. In the movies she would be the one you leave behind at the Cyberdyne Systems HQ with the detonator to keep SWAT from closing in too fast.

Smilin' Jack said...

Some of you are just saying that there are alternatives to relying on memory. Of course! The advice here assumes you WANT to use your memory.

As military aircraft became more complex after WWII, many pilots considered checklists to be beneath their dignity, and preferred to rely on their memory. Quite a few paid a heavy price. Nowadays a military or commercial pilot who uses memory instead of checklists will be immediately terminated, by his employer if not by God.
There are still quite a few surgeons who resist using checklists. Pray you don't get one.

Be said...

Hand moving helps somehow. I used to hide myself from the lecturer's view and knit while listening to the course in larger sections.

Be said...

Other interesting comprehension spark: Reading Aloud.

Char Char Binks said...

"The memory palace take some practice, but it's much quicker, simpler, and more flexible than drawing what you're trying to remember."

I've tried various memory systems, and I've found that certain mnemonic devices can help, but repetition is the best. Aside from that, actually UNDERSTANDING helps the most in memorizing, and memorizing is really only effective, and useful, if it aids understanding.

I tried to learn the memory palace method, but it's such chore in itself, not at all quick, simple, or flexible, and I never got the hang of it.

As I recall from classes, actively listening, and appropriate engagement and questioning, worked better than voluminous note-taking. I'd often sit and doodle while thinking about the subject matter, unless I was forced to take notes.

Still, "Unless of course the instructor says "this will be on the test." Write that down. Your mileage may vary." is excellent advice.

reader said...

I would read the material before the lecture, take notes (and doodle) during the lecture, recopy my notes to clean up my outline a day or two after the lecture, and then read my notes the night before the exam. By that time I could almost visualize the page that I wanted.

I didn’t tell my son that I only studied the night before a test until he started his third year. He starts exam prep a week prior to the exam.

Bruce Hayden said...

“I think taking notes (by hand) does the same thing. I have to tell students to do this these days!”

Different things work for different people. I am one of those who learned by taking notes. Not reading the notes, but taking them. Reading them for the most part was worthless, though building outlines in law school was sometimes helpful. It was weird. If I took notes, I would get an A in the class in HS and college. If I didn’t, I might get a B. But then, I would find, if I ever went back and reviewed my notes, that they were almost unreadable. Turns out my mother did something similar, except she would replay her notes in her head the night or two before a test. Never had to actually read them. Worked for her - first in her class at the University of Illinois. Then there is my partner, who grew up with an eidetic/photographic memory. She would read a passage once in a text book, then replay that in her head when taking a test. This sort of thing is supposed to disappear in adults, but she seemed to still have it into her 40s. She thinks that she still has it. She doesn’t. Or at least not when it is inconvenient - she claims not having broken my brand new iPad Pro by dropping it on the tile floor. Twice. But, then, she has spent most of the last two decades with me, and she claims that I have selective memory loss. Very selective.

Joan said...

Thanks for posting this. More backup for when my students ask me, "Why do I have to draw a picture?" for their vocab words. Every field of study in science has its own vocabulary, and we cover a lot of different fields, so there's a ton of vocabulary. Drawing a picture for each term really does help the students remember them. And having them draw a model of the system we've been studying (plate tectonics, say) is a much better assessment of what they actually understand than most quizzes or tests are.

As for me, I've always been a note-taker but rarely studied until I got to college. I struggled as an undergrad because I didn't know how to study! As a grad student I took notes by hand, then typed them up, and then read them aloud to study before exams. I tell my students (7th and 8th graders) to read their notes aloud each night and think about whether or not they understand what they're saying, and to bring questions the next day. They never do, alas. If you're a student or a teacher and want to improve the learning experience, Barbara Oakley's books have fantastic advice.

ALP said...

Late to this one...but YES YES YES. I am terrible at memorization, so academic classes heavy on rote memorization are really challenging for me. I had to take Plant ID TWICE I was failing it so bad mainly due to lack of time. Tons of repetition needed to get things to stick.

I always...ALWAYS sketched plant forms during our lecture-walks through the arboretum. Maybe one other person in class did this, but the vast majority of the much younger 20-somethings snapped photos on their iPhones. Photographic memories I guess. Doesn't work for me. If you need to remember that a certain plant has heart shaped leaves there is nothing like **drawing** heart shaped leaves a few times to get it to stick.

There is also something about editing writing via hard copy and fountain pen that works so much better than on a PC screen. As if holding a writing instrument stimulates thinking while keyboarding inhibits it.