memory and storytelling

How To Use Storytelling To Build A Better Memory


Why Is Storytelling So Important To Building A Better Memory

Do you easily forget things?

Such as facts to back up your side of an argument?

Ideas that pop into your head from time to time when you need them the most?

How about the past? Is your mind a bit fuzzy about what happened in times gone by?

Do you feel like your memory isn’t what it used to be?

What can you do to boost your memory?

Have you ever tried to use storytelling as a memory booster?

All of us like a well-crafted story, especially when it conveys a message using facts to back up its position. There are people who revel with  just the facts (we call them the Sergeant Joe Friday types  from the 1960’s show Dragnet). While there is nothing wrong with just the facts, our brains have been created to tell and hear stories. It helps us process things and ideas much quicker and much easier.

Let me show you how to build a better memory by using a unique technique called storytelling.

The Link Between  Memory And Storytelling

According to author Shawn Callahan, “Researchers at Western Australia have shown that when a good story is told but then it is revealed as misinformation it’s hard for our memories to let it go. Providing a retraction by just detailing the facts has little affect in correcting the misinformation.”

This is an important to understand as good stories often get in the way of facts yet our brains have a hard time completing a story when essential parts are missing. The brain doesn’t like to be left in cliffhanger mode so it will try it’s best to complete the story.

Sean goes on to say, “The best remedy is to tell a better, more plausible story.” But even that doesn’t help build a better memory. It just confuses us even more.

Why is that?

There’s one thing missing in all of this and that is emotion. Emotion plays a huge role in both how we remember things and how we process that information.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
Maya Angelou

Emotion in storytelling equals connection. Yes, it’s the human connection that bonds us and we can use that in our storytelling to boost our memory. We can connect past events in the stories to build new connections which enhance our memory. The connections are the key to making all of this work.

You see, a good story conveys various emotions and helps us picture what’s happening around us. But an even more powerful part of storytelling are the features of the story.  They help us remember more than just boring facts because our brains are wired for structure when it comes to storytelling. Things that happen in a story pretty much follow a logical format.

So, if you use storytelling to memorize things, you are following a pattern that the brain can comprehend.

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
Muriel Rukeyser

According to Italian Neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues, we do not use logical thought to interpret or predict the actions of others. Instead, it’s the stories themselves and how we interpret the experience which defines our memories.

It’s the internal story that we become intimately involved with when stories are told. The more comfortable we are with the story (facts, ideas, people, places and things) the more familiar it becomes to us. It is now ingrained in your memory because the story touched you.

Another way story and memory are linked comes from the principals of Gestalt psychologyGestalt psychology is an attempt to understand the laws behind the ability to acquire and maintain meaningful perceptions in an apparently chaotic world. The central principle of gestalt psychology is that the mind forms a global whole with self-organizing tendencies.

In laymen’s terms, according to Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, “The whole is something else than the sum of its parts.” That is why we are able to remember some of the things in a story but not everything. It’s the parts that move us that we remember the most.

According to Princeton University neuroscientist Uri Hasson, his study on cognitive processing of storytelling found that when a speaker told a story, both he and the listener’s brains lit up in the same areas when put under an MRI scan.

“The results showed that not only did all of the listeners show similar brain activity during the story, the speaker and the listeners had very similar brain activity despite the fact that one person was producing language and the others were comprehending it.”  Uri Hasson.

How can you put this into practice?

Using The Right Stories To Build a Better Memory

The art of storytelling is a technique people use to help them remember things they might otherwise lose sight of after a time. There are many different methods of storytelling which promotes and boosts your memory. These types of methods are called mnemonic techniques which is the study and development of systems for improving and assisting the memory.

Most people think they need to continually stuff their brains until something sticks in order to memorize things but this is the most inefficient way possible.  This is called rate memorization. Not only is this ineffective but it frustrates the hell out of us. Let me show effective way to use storytelling to boost your memory that get much better results.

Want To Know How To Build A Better Memory
With The Art Of Storytelling?

Discover the hidden secrets to boosting your memory
most people people never learn!


Here are the 5 most popular mnemonic techniques that boost memory.

1- The Link & Story Method

2- The Principal Of Recitation Method 

3- Pattern Recognition 

4- Chunking


Now that you know the right methods, how can we use these 5 techniques to assist the memory through the use of  storytelling?

The Link Method – The Link Method is an image-based technique for memorizing lists. It is very easy to use because it uses simple associations between items in a list by linking them with very dramatic images which contain the items.

Why are images so powerful?

  • The brain is more receptive to positive images. It will block out unpleasant ones which doesn’t help your memory..
  • When you overemphasize the size of an image, it leaves a lasting impression in the brain.
  • Use different types of humor. The brain has an easier time remembering funny things instead of normal ones.
  • Use different types of symbols (colorful ones are the best) such as red traffic signs yellow lights or green arrows.

This is where connections come into play. That’s why we use stories to bring them into context for if you forget one of the connections, you have to start all over again. Combine these vivid images with descriptive stories and it becomes incredibly easy to boost your cognitive memory.

You remember with the link method through the connections you build but you take it to the next level with stories. The stories help keep those events in logical order so your mind can process the events.

The stories bring conscious association between items which anyone can identify with by hooking together each piece of the list. It is like a series of dominoes you set up and as they fall, it follows a logical pattern the brain is used to.

The great thing about the link and story method is how versatile it really is. Even though things are structured, there is plenty of room for imagination and creativity to make it fun, which is why this method really works!

Pattern Recognition – What is pattern recognition? Pattern recognition happens when information from the environment around us is received and entered into our short-term memory, causing specific content of long-term memory to be activated.

This type of recognition allows us to use all types of patterns to predict and expect what is coming next. As long as the pattern is predictable, memorizing becomes easy.

According to Yohan John, PhD in Cognitive and Neural Systems from Boston University, “Pattern recognition shows up most clearly during the processing of inputs. Recognition allows us to navigate the world, seeking beneficial/pleasurable experiences and avoiding harmful/negative experiences. So pattern recognition must also be supplemented by associative learning: humans and animals must learn how patterns relate to each other, and to their positive and negative consequences.”

What type of pattern recognitions are there and how do they function in order for us to boost the memory?

  • Audio – Sounds play an important role in pattern recognition. A good example would be musical notes. We recognize certain patterns from melodies which helps us remember songs.
  • Visual – What we see also plays a big role in pattern recognition. An example can be taken from learning the alphabet while we were in school. As we learned the alphabet, we used the patterns to spell and form words.

In his article, “Humans Are the World’s Best Pattern-Recognition Machines, But for How Long?” Dominic Basulto states that “The future of intelligence is in making our patterns better, our heuristics stronger.”

Author Kevin Ashton takes this a step further when he describes where pattern recognition is headed. he calls it “Selective attention.” This means, “Focusing on what really matters so that poor selections are removed before they ever hit the conscious brain.”

Why does that matter to us?

Think about it for a minute. When you are able to remove poor selection from your mind , what is left over? Good selections! And the more you concentrate on good selections the easier it will be to remember the things you need to remember.

The infographic below will show you 7 more techniques to help you remember anything.

7 Techniques to Remember Anything

From Visually.

Let’s continue with more mnemonic techniques that boost your memory.

Chunking – The idea of chunking comes from taking different chunks of information and grouping them into larger units so they fit into the greater whole. A good example of doing this is with phone numbers. It’s very hard to remember seven random numbers but when you put them into a sequence (phone number) the brain takes that chunk because it is familiar with the that type of information.

According to neuroscientist Daniel Bor, chunking allows us “hack” our memory so that we are able to take different types of information and combine them into a whole we can easily remember. It allows us to use our short-term memory more efficiently by breaking up large units of information into small chunks that are more easily managed by the brain. It’s a process that

In actuality, chunking is used to link groups of things together so that we can see patters arise that our brain recognize. As you can see, each method is interconnected because the brain uses parts of every method to recall information.

Tony Robbins explains why chunking matters in everything we do and how it can be used to break big jobs into manageable actions, “We’ll often take an objective and pull it apart into a million pieces or tie it all together into one abstract whole. For example, if you take on a project and try to do the whole thing all at once, you’re going to be overwhelmed. And similarly, if you take a task and break it into too many small steps, it’s equally overwhelming, daunting and frustrating.”

By using the chunk method, we can do everything we need to do without overwhelming the mind. This is why chunking works. It would be like overwhelming your computer with so much information at once that it freezes up. Once you feed it information in chunks, it can then process it it in a logical fashion.

 Robert Frost, an Instructional design specialist relates chunking to the concept of Cognitive Load Theory which he describes as,“The amount of information and interactions that must be processed simultaneously can either under-load or overload the finite amount of working memory. If overloaded, all elements must be processed before meaningful learning can continue. The more a person has to learn in a shorter period of time, the more difficult it is to process that information.”

Chunking is a short-cut to learning quickly and remembering things without overloading the brains short-term memory.

ACRONYMS – An acronym is a word that is made up of the first letter of each word in a group you want to remember and making a new word out of them that is easy to remember. A good example of this is remembering the great lakes. HOMES takes the first letter of each lake and makes a new word out of it. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. Instead of trying to memorize each word, the first letter is able to stimulate the short-term memory so that it can be easily remembered.

Acronyms save time by allowing us to memorize letters instead of words and thereby jogging our memory as to what each means.

So, how does storytelling use acronyms to aid in memorizing things?

Say you want to go shopping for vegetables at the grocery store. Make up a story using the first letter of each food you want to buy and then relating it to your list. It makes things much easier and your short-term memory doesn’t get overwhelmed.

Here’s a graphic that shows you how human memory works.

Creating Your Own Stories To Boost Your Memory

Stories are the life blood of our existence. We are drawn to stories because the mind thinks in patterns and stories are just a different type of pattern.

What holds us back from creating those stories?

Focus! It’s the number-one component of a strong memory.

Dr. Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior states that, “Focus is a reminder to pay attention, Frame encompasses different techniques to give the information meaning—frame it around something meaningful. If something is meaningful it will be memorable.”

Stories should be meaningful and strike a chord in your heart. Those type of stories are what boost your memory and recall.

Psychology professor, Dan Johnson, of Washington and Lee University, suggests we start using “Nano-narratives.” In his study entitled“Imagining the Abstract: Using a Brief Narrative as a Memory Aid” he states that The personal touch creates memory ‘anchors.” It is these memory anchors that can be used to boost memory.

He says we should inject ourselves into these narratives. This makes things unusual and special which the brain hooks into.

He goes on to say, “Our hypothesis is that generating a very brief narrative about the concepts in something new you’re trying to learn can help clarify those concepts, and will create an anchor in memory that you can then go back to,” Johnson said. “In the future, when you’re trying to recall these concepts again, you have this story in mind that you can follow along. As you follow that story along, those concepts come to life for you, and, therefore, should provide better learning in the long term.”

What types of stories can you interject yourself into to boost your own memory?

How can you use these different techniques to make things easier to recall?

I have tried to drill down with this information in order to make it easier for you to remember the little things that most people forget. Short-term memory can play havoc with life but with these techniques you should improve your memory very quickly.

Want To Know How To Build A Better Memory
With The Art Of Storytelling?

Discover the hidden secrets to boosting your memory
most people people never learn!


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