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Memory Techniques for Interpreters. Mayo Clinic Workshop II. Objectives of Workshop II. The participant should be able to: Review/identify the three stages involved in memory Describe the four phases of memory tasks Discuss general properties of memory Explain the Stroop Effect

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memory techniques for interpreters

Memory Techniquesfor Interpreters

Mayo Clinic Workshop II

objectives of workshop ii
Objectives of Workshop II
  • The participant should be able to:
  • Review/identify the three stages involved in memory
  • Describe the four phases of memory tasks
  • Discuss general properties of memory
  • Explain the Stroop Effect
  • Apply techniques and mnemonic devices for memory enhancement in interpreting:
    • Association
    • Visualization
    • Chaining
    • Method of Loci
    • Acronyms and Acrostics
message relay situation roles
Message Relay Situation & Roles
  • You are all part of a large corporation. One of your divisions manufactures parts for aircraft. Your group consists of the following chain of command.

Divide into groups of 5-6 and assign your own roles. Do not take notes nor ask for clarification or repetition!

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)


Division Manager

Production Manager


Factory Worker

discussion questions
Discussion Questions:
  • How did listening skills and memory skills affect the accuracy of the message?
  • What types of information were retained?
  • What was omitted?
  • What types of errors were encountered: omissions or deletions, additions, substitutions and message inaccuracy.
power of the human mind
Power of the human mind:

The paomnnehil pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig eh?

memory flow chart
Memory Flow Chart

The flowchart for the theory of memory discussed in the first session indicates that all incoming information first passes through Sensory Memory (SM) before it enters Short­Term Memory (STM). There it can be maintained by rehearsal and either successfully encoded for storage in Long­Term Memory (LTM) or forgotten. In retrieval, the information passes from LTM back to STM, where it enters our consciousness. A summary of the characteristics of each stage of memory follows.

types of memory
Types of Memory
  • Short Term Memory- Where sensory data is first transmitted to for processing and evaluation- Aging impacts the depth of processing that occurs in STM, sending less to LTM
types of memory10
Types of Memory
  • Long Term Memory- Where STM is encoded for long-term storage and future retrieval
  • How quickly and reliably we recall it depends on:
  • Activation: How long since we last used the information.
  • Strength: How well we have practiced it
  • Archival Memory (a type of LTM)- Used in the ultra-long term storage of memories
working memory
Working Memory
  • Here we address why we can rehearse only limited information at a time.
  • Articulatory Loop
  • Rehearsal limitations are due to limits in how long it takes verbal material to decay, not how many items we can store. Hence, the faster we can rehearse, the more we can store (Baddeley, 1986).
memory terms
Memory terms
  • Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) encoding or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall/retrieval, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory.
  • The persistence to perform a learned behavior (facts or experiences) after an interval has elapsed in which there has been no performance or practice of the behavior.
memory theory
Memory Theory
  • Recognition vs. Recall Issues- Recognition - seeing something and knowing what it is- Recall - very construction oriented; requires making connections
    • The process whereby a representation of past experience is elicited. - As we age, our recognition abilities get stronger while recall weakens- Recognition scenarios (like multiple choice exams) are better for older learners
  • 'Mnemonic' is another word for memory tool. Mnemonics are methods for remembering information that is otherwise quite difficult to recall. The basic principle of mnemonics is to use as many of the best functions of your brain as possible to store information.
use your whole mind to remember
Use Your Whole Mind To Remember
  • By coding language and numbers in striking images, you can reliably code both information and the structure of information. You can then easily recall these later.
you can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable
You can do the following things to make your mnemonics more memorable:
  • Use positive, pleasant images. The brain often blocks out unpleasant ones
  • Use vivid, colorful, sense-laden images - these are easier to remember than drab ones
  • Use all your senses to code information or dress up an image. Remember that your mnemonic can contain sounds, smells, tastes, touch, movements and feelings as well as pictures.
mnemonics continued
Mnemonics continued . . .
  • Give your image three dimensions, movement and space to make it more vivid. You can use movement either to maintain the flow of association, or to help you to remember actions.
  • Exaggerate the size of important parts of the image
  • Use humor! Funny or peculiar things are easier to remember than normal ones.
  • Similarly rude rhymes are very difficult to forget!
  • Symbols (red traffic lights, pointing fingers, road signs, etc.) can code quite complex messages quickly and effectively.
how does our memory work
How does our memory work?
  • We remember things by association. Every piece of information in our memory is connected to other pieces in some way or another. For example, if you are given the word "apple", what do you think of? Perhaps something like this:
  • APPLE: red, round, sweet, teacher, tree, fruit
  • But it's unlikely that we might see "apple" and think of "dog". And what if you were asked what the 7th letter of the alphabet was? Chances are, you wouldn't know that "G = 7," but you could easily think to yourself, "A B C D E F G," and then say "G". You used association to get to the letter G, because you knew A was the first letter, then you kept choosing the next letter in the sequence until you got to the right one.
  • If memory works by association, we actively work to create an association between two bits of information. For example, for the plane that we need to catch at 2 P.M., we can imagine the plane in our mind, and notice that it has 2 wings. Two wings, 2 P.M. There's an association by means of a visualization. We are now ten times more likely to remember the take-off time long after it has faded from our short-term memory.
  • When pieces of information are not obviously related in any way, however, we have to be a bit more creative in linking things together. But it isn't as hard as it seems. Most of us learned rhymes and acronyms in school that helped us remember things. Do any of the following look familiar to you?
  • i before e except after c, or when sounded like a as in neighbor and weigh (rule for remembering ei or ie)
  • ROY G. BIV (colors of the rainbow)
  • All Cows Eat Grass; Every Good Boy Does Fine (notes of musical scale)
  • Never Eat Sour Watermelons (directions on a compass)
association exercise
Association exercise
  • To demonstrate how effectively this works, look at the following list of words, and try to come up with an association between the left word and the right word of each row. Some will be easy; others may be harder. As an example, for the first pair, you might want to imagine a mouse that has a long, wavy tail that is in the shape of the letter S.
association exercise24
Association exercise
  • mouse S
  • fur R
  • train bridge
  • moat boat
  • popcorn chair
  • elephant pancake
  • toothbrush canal
  • umbrella triangle
association exercise25
Association exercise
  • After you have formed the associations, cover up the right side of the list and then try to name the word associated with each word on the left. If you formed vivid, clear associations, you may be surprised at how quickly and easily you were able to remember everything!
association exercise26
Association exercise
  • mouse
  • fur
  • train
  • moat
  • popcorn
  • elephant
  • toothbrush
  • umbrella
other properties of memory
Other properties of memory:
  • Law of Recency:
    • We are more likely to remember things that happened recently than those that happened a long time ago. You can probably remember what you had for dinner yesterday, but not what you ate for dinner two weeks ago today.
law of recency
Law of Recency
  • A list of 20 words will be read. Your job is to remember as many of the words as possible. Write down the words that you can remember immediately after reading the list.
list of words
List of words

cat apple ball tree square head house door box car king hammer milk fish book tape arrow flower key shoe

law of recency and primacy
Law of Recency . . . and Primacy
  • This type of experiment provides evidence that there are 2 types of memory processes. It is thought that memory is good for the words read last because they are still in short term memory - this is the recency effect. Memory is good for the words read first because they made it into long term memory - this is the primacy effect.
memory properties
Memory properties
  • Law of Vividness:
    • We tend to remember the most spectacular or striking impressions rather than those that are more ordinary. You can probably remember what you did on your last birthday, or perhaps the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, but not what happened on the previous day of those occasions (unless, that too, was a "special" occasion).
law of vividness
Law of Vividness:
  • We are much better at remembering pictures than we are at remembering words and names. There are probably biological and evolutionary reasons for that. When subjects are asked to recognize a small set of photos that they saw the previous day from a larger set, they typically recognize around 97%.
the method of loci
The Method of Loci
  • Devised during the Roman Empire, the method of loci uses the chaining method with a twist. Now all the items to-be-remembered are linked to specific places in the order you would visit them. For example, you might think of the route you take to work:
remembering by location
Remembering by location
  • Your room (you wake up)
  • Your kitchen (you have breakfast)
  • Front door of your house
  • Bus stop
  • Bus seat
  • Friend's house that you see from the bus
  • Gas Station that you see from the bus
  • Market that you see from the bus
  • Workplace
method of loci
Method of loci
  • Now you must link the items that you want remembered to each of these places. You have to remember the places first, of course, but this should be easy. Then chain each item to the places...remember, the more wild your idea the better. Using a grocery store example: milk pouring on you in your room, bread that you can't get out of the toaster (kitchen), eggs splattered on your front door, etc.
concrete words abstract words and nonsense
Concrete Words, Abstract Words and Nonsense
  • The ability to recall a word depends on how meaningful the word is to a person. Along with the meaningfulness of a word, the "concreteness" of a word is important for memory. Concreteness refers the ability of a word to form a mental image. A word with high concreteness is easy to "see"; a word with low concreteness (an "abstract" word) is difficult to visualize.
concrete words
Concrete words
  • Here are three lists of words: concrete words, abstract words and nonsense words. See which list is easier to memorize. You could also read these lists to other people to see how many words from each list they remember.
concrete words38


Concrete words
abstract words


Abstract words
nonsense words


Nonsense words
memory properties41
Memory properties
  • Law of Frequency:
    • We tend to remember things we experience the most often, rather than those we experience only once in a while. You are much more likely to remember your name or your phone number than the square root of 3 (unless you are a mathematician).
memory properties42
Memory properties
  • With a strong emotional context, it is likely that events will be better remembered. The part of the brain responsible for autobiographical memories is called the medial temporal lobe. Researchers have hypothesized that a structure deep in this temporal lobe, called the amygdala acts together with other structures of the medial temporal lobe to enhance the ability of the brain to process, encode and retrieve emotional events.
short term memory test
Short Term Memory Test
  • Directions
  • You are about do a small short term memory test. A few letters will flash on your computer monitor for 3 seconds. Your job is to write down as many letters as you can remember after they disappear.
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
stm exercise
STM exercise
  • How did you do? Compare your results with the table on this page. How many letters from each trial did you remember? Is there a "pattern" to the letters that you remembered? For example, did you remember the first few letters better than the middle letters? Did you remember the last letters?
stm exercise51
STM exercise
  • Graph your results for each set of numbers. One way to do this is to graph the number of letters you remembered as a percentage. For example, if you remembered 2 of the 4 letters presented in the second trial, then you have remembered 50% of the letters.
short term memory test pictures
Short Term Memory Test - Pictures
  • Draw a 4x4 grid of boxes.
  • Look at the objects that you should remember. The objects will stay on your screen for 30 seconds. Then write down the names of all the items you remember inside the appropriate boxes.
picture test
Picture test
  • How many objects did you remember?
  • Were the objects that you remembered also placed correctly on the grid?
  • What categories of objects did you remember: animals, food, building, animated objects, piano
note taking exercise
Note-taking exercise
  • Participant A will be given a sheet with a series of sentences with facts and figures.
  • The presenter will read orally one sentence at a time.
  • Participant B will take notes and then repeat each sentence aloud to Participant A.
  • Participant A will mark any errors made by Participant B.
  • Discuss omissions or distortions made.
interference the stroop effect
Don't read the words on the right--justsay the colorsthey're printed in, and do this aloud as fast as you can.

You're in for a surprise!


Interference: The Stroop Effect
The famous "Stroop Effect" is named after J. Ridley Stroop who discovered this strange phenomenon in the 1930’s.
  • If you're like most people, your first inclination was to read the words, 'red, yellow, green...,' rather than the colors they're printed in, 'blue, green, red...'
  • You've just experienced interference.
  • When you look at one of the words, you see both its color and its meaning. If those two pieces of evidence are in conflict, you have to make a choice. Because experience has taught you that word meaning is more important than ink color, interference occurs when you try to pay attention only to the ink color.
forgetting gone or inaccessible
Forgetting: Gone, or Inaccessible?
  • Do we forget because the information is gone, or do we forget because we can't access information that is still there?
  • It is difficult to distinguish the two. However, there is evidence that we retain more than we can retrieve.
forgetting decay or interference
Forgetting: Decay or Interference?
  • Is forgetting due to decay of unused information, or to interference of new information with old information?
  • Power Law of Forgetting
    • A survey of forgetting research concluded that the rate at which we forget information usually conforms to a power law: we forget a lot at first, but over time the rate of forgetting diminishes.
how to improve your memory
How to Improve Your Memory
  • There are many things you can do to improve your memory, among them the use of certain mental techniques, as well as special care with nutrition and medicines.
to stimulate memory
To stimulate memory
  • Use your memory to the utmost. Challenge a novelty. Learn new skills. If you work in an office, learn to dance. If you are a dancer, learn to deal with a computer; if you work with sales, learn to play chess; if you are a programmer, learn to paint. This could stimulate your brain's neural circuits to grow.
pay attention
Pay attention
  • Don't try to memorize all the facts that happen, but focus your attention and concentrate in what you consider more important, avoiding all other thoughts. Exercise: take any object, such as a pen, and concentrate on it. Think on its various characteristics: its material, its function, its color, its anatomy, etc. Don't allow any other thought to occupy your mind while you are concentrating on that pen.
  • It is impossible to pay attention if you are tense or nervous. Exercise: hold your breath for ten seconds, then release it slowly.
associate facts to images
Associate facts to images
  • Learn mnemonic techniques. They are a very efficient way to memorize large quantities of information.
visualize images
Visualize images
  • See figures with the "eyes of your mind".
  • Some vitamins are essential for the proper working of memory: thiamin, folic acid, and B12 vitamin. They are found in bread and cereal, vegetables and fruits.
  • Water helps maintain the memory systems working, specially in older persons. According to Dr. Turkington, lack of water in the body has an immediate and deep effect on memory; dehydration can generate confusion and other thought difficulties.
  • To be able to have a good memory, it is essential that we allow the brain to have enough sleep and rest. While sleeping, the brain disconnects from the senses, and proceeds to revising and storing memory. Insomnia would produce a chronic fatigue and would impair the ability of concentration and the storing of information.
  • Some medicines can cause loss of memory: tranquilizers, muscular relaxants, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs, such as valium. Some medicine for the control of high blood pressure (hypertension) may cause memory problems and depression.
  • Alcohol interferes specially with short-term memory, which impairs the ability of retaining new information. Studies have shown that even the ingestion of low quantities of alcoholic beverage during one whole week will interfere with the ability of remembering.
  • Studies have shown that, when compared with non-smokers, individual smokers of one or more packs of cigarettes a day had difficulties remembering people's faces and names in a test of visual and verbal memory (Turkington, 1996).
  • Coffee and tea have a very positive effect to maintain attention and to end sleepiness, but the excitation promoted by these drinks may interfere with the memory function.
your tips
Your tips?
  • Other tips (such as take notes, get organized, use a diary, keep fit, regular health checks, memory aids, etc).
  • Practice helps a lot at first, then provides decreasing gains as you reach the limits of your performance ability.
  • Practice improves memory, but how you practice also affects it. The same amounts of practice, but distributed in the one case and massed in the other, lead to different outcomes.
    • Distributed practice is when practice is spread out over time. For example, you may study a total of 12 hours for a test but you did so over 6 days.
    • Massed practice is when practice is done all at once. For example, you study 12 hours the night before the test.
    • Many studies have confirmed that the first strategy is the better one. Subjects remember more and for longer periods of time when they distribute their practice.
  • Overlearning is when practice is continued beyond the criterion of one error-free trial. Actors overlearn their lines. They will rehearse far beyond the time necessary for the criterion above. In the military, drills constitute overlearning. In all of the cases above, overlearning helps to negate the negative effects of stress on memory. Overlearned items can be recalled under higher levels of stress than can items that were not overlearned.
in conclusion

In conclusion . . .

For the most part, memory does a magnificent job for us. Every time you spell a word, drive a car or pick up a telephone and recognize your mother's voice, it's a wonder.