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Actors & Memory

Association for Psychological Science: 'To be or, or ... um ... line!'

Given my own undependable memory and the hand-hewn props I rely upon to shore it up, I was intrigued by this article/press release from last year on how actors are able to remember their lines (via boing boing):

According to the researchers, the secret of actors' memories is, well, acting. An actor acquires lines readily by focusing not on the words of the script, but on those words' meaning — the moment-to-moment motivations of the character saying them — as well as on the physical and emotional dimensions of their performance.

That resonates for me. I'm pretty sure that a lot of my own memory deficits start at the time of "encoding" because I haven't done more than try to shove the words into the right slots. This approach seems like a sensible and organic way to put the material in a more meaningful mental context.

For a good overview of memory techniques, try the Memory Improvement Tools section over on Mind Tools. I'd recommend starting with the introduction, which offers insight into further engaging your "whole mind" in the memory process:

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:

  • Use positive, pleasant images. Your 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.
  • 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
Anna's picture

I have a really good...

I have a really good memory, but sometimes I have a hard time remembering information that was just given to me, such as when I'm given more than one job assignment at the beginning of my shift. Instead of writing them down as other operators do, I've found that mentally "mapping" the presses, where they are in the shop and their relation to the other presses I'm assigned to helps. I've also found that I can recall certain number sequences better (such as my part numbers or serial numbers which need to be written on cards which will accompany the parts to the next operation) if I imagine myself as a camera "taking a picture". I actually look at the number and blink, fixing the image in my head, then I immediately replay the image by writing it onto the card, and it tends to stick with me the rest of my shift.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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