Free Memory Tools From . . . NASA?!?

Published on Thursday, November 06, 2008 in , , , , ,

NASANOTE: I apologize for not posting a entry on Sunday, as my normal schedule would dictate, by my ISP was updating the speed of their service, and I was unable to access the internet reliably on Sunday as a result.

“Systems integration” is a fancy term for bringing together smaller systems (or “subsystems”), and making sure they work together smoothly. This usually applies to computer hardware and/or software.

You may not know it, but NASA has what they call a “Human Systems Integration Division” (a what?!?). In short, this division deals both with improving human performance, and how human interact with computers. The aspect of this division that caught my eye, of course, was the memory section!

Most of the memory section involves memory tests. There is also an interesting tool, but I'll save that for later. Generally, these tests can only be done once, as the items involved aren't randomly generated.

The first test, in the Human Memory section concerns lists. You're given lists to remember, which you'll later write down on a piece of paper. Initially, the order isn't important, but in later tests, order becomes a factor, as well.

The next test is dubbed the Short Term Memory test. Unlike the longer lists in the previous test, these are shorter lists of various types, including pictures, visual words, and spoken words. It is interesting to see the difference in performance for each of the various methods. This test may help you to realize which sense helps you learn best!

The Interference test has the most “real world” feel to it. Many times, you hear information you want to remember, and you put forth an effort to do so, but other information often gets jumbled in with it, thus making it harder to remember. This test challenges you to remember numbers, alone at first, and then with interference in later tests.

In one last test, which is the simplest of them all, you're asked to recognize a U.S. Lincoln penny. This is interesting, as those of us in the U.S. often see these several times a day. The big question here is how much detail we really retain of such a familiar object.

If you're new to memory training, I suggest trying these tests as they are, just to learn at what level you naturally work. Then, take your time and work through basic memory techniques. Once you're comfortable working with these techniques, try going back and seeing how much better you do. The fun part here is surprising yourself with how much improvement the application of a few simple memory techniques can give you!

Finally, there's the tool I mentioned earlier. Ever remembered the order of the planets in the solar system with a sentence like My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)? For standard things like planets, music notes, or mathematical order of operation, there are many mnemonics that use initials. If you need to develop your own, the Mnemonicizer is the tool for you! Once you have the list of items you need to remember, reduce them down to their first initials, and write those initials in order (assuming their order is important).

Now, you can go through the word lists by letter in the Mnemonicizer, select a word with the same starting letter, and then click the Display button to add the word over at the right side of your screen. Do this once for each letter in your list, and you've got your own custom mnemonic sentence!

Enjoy these tools and try them out. Who knows? You might surprise yourself!

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