I forget pretty much everything when it comes to physical items I need to take with me from my apartment to another location. I own at least a dozen umbrellas that prove this fact. I know it’s going to rain, I sit one by the door to take with me when I leave, and then I get downtown and realise I forgot it.
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Recently, researchers at Baycrest Health Services in Toronto discovered a new way to remember those frequently forgotten items: by associating them with something else. The group of scientist published a paper in Memory & Cognition
It’s a strategy called “unitisation.” Researchers hope to use the technique with dementia patients.
Basically, the idea is to think about the thing you need to remember and associate it with an action. That assigns the thing to your memory and makes you much more likely to remember it when you need to.
The study was done with 80 people between the ages of 61 and 88. Results from that (albeit small) group found that associating an action to a task made people much more likely to remember than any other traditional memory tricks.
The Telegraph reported on the study this week and offered a few suggestions for things to try. For instance, thinking about your umbrella being jammed in your door lock can remind you to bring it with you when you go to unlock the door later on. Thinking about your dog blocking the door at work can help you remember to bring home dog food.
When the action is specifically associated with the thing, you’re more likely to remember what you need to do and consequently make it happen.