Like everything else in our body, memory, particularly short-term recall, performs worse with age; luckily the best way to stay sharp is also the most fun.
Question: What steps can we take to improve our memories?
Gary Small: Our research group at UCLA has looked into ways to improve memory and our work and the work of other scientists have found that it’s actually possible to improve our memory ability with relatively simple strategies and techniques and my favorite and actually the building block of all memory techniques involves three things, look, snap, connect, so this is an easy way to remember the three major steps in improving memory performance. So look stands for focusing attention. The biggest reason that people don’t remember things is they’re simply not paying attention. You’re running outside the house and you can’t remember whether you did some minor task because you weren’t paying attention. Snap is a reminder to create a mental snapshot of information you want to recall later. Many of us find it easier to remember visual information than other types of information. And then the third step connect, is just a way of linking up those mental snapshots, so an example would be if I’m running out quickly and I have two errands, pick up eggs and go to the post office. I might visualize in my mind and egg with a stamp on it.
Question: Can we prevent everyday mental slips?
Gary Small: Many people complain about everyday memory slips. They misplace their keys, their glasses. They forget appointments and these problems are very annoying to most of us. There are simple things we can do to improve on that. I mean certainly using look, snap, connect can help, just the process of focusing attention will help us remember where we place objects. Another simple strategy is to use memory places. I like to hang my keys on a hook in the kitchen, so I remember where I place my keys. This can be problematic though when you’re traveling because you may be in a hotel and you have very thin glasses and you put them down distracted by something and then you’re in a panic, but you can always bring a pair, a set of glasses to help with that