A new study in Psychological Review suggests that we store our memories in patches and move between them in the same way that bees move between flowers. To improve your memory recall, you need to know when it’s best to move from one patch to another.
We’ve talked about building a memory palace to improve your memory and this strategy takes a similar approach without all the work. Researcher Thomas Hills describes the process:
When faced with a memory task, we focus on specific clusters of information and jump between them like a bird between bushes. For example, when hunting for animals in memory, most people start with a patch of household pets-like dog, cat and hamster. But then as this patch becomes depleted, they look elsewhere.
The study found that the key to improving recall was knowing when to jump from one patch of information to another. If you stay too long or not long enough, you won’t be able to recall the information. Basically, if you’re trying to remember something and you take your mind to one patch of memories and don’t find it, move on to another when you’ve finished foraging.