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The Memory Key

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Note that this book has a later revised edition, published by Random House UK as Perfect Memory Training. This is available in both digital format and paperback.



Like diet books, books on how to improve your memory generally fail to have a long-term effect. This is not the failure of the reader! It is because the book has signally failed to instruct the reader in what they most need to know. It is not enough to be shown effective memory ‘tricks’. To use these strategies effectively you need to understand them. Understand why they work, how they work, when they work, and when they don’t. To understand these things you need to understand how memory works. This book teaches you the basics of how memory works, and shows how these principles relate to effective memory strategies.



Chapter 1: How to permanently improve your memory

Most memory-improvement programs do not result in long-lasting change

Memory is plural!

Memory skills can cost too much

What you need to know to improve your memory skills

Knowing what can be done

Becoming confident in your memory skills

Chapter 2: What comes out is what went in

The building blocks of memory

How memory works

Information is infinite and we cannot store it all

Is your memory a junk-heap or a storage system?

Association is the foundation stone of thought

Memory is held in a pattern not in a place

The implications of memory being a network

The key to remembering is making codes that are easily found

What comes out must have gone in

Chapter 3: Finding is tricky when you don’t know where to look

To find a code you follow a trail

A good trail needs a good starting point

Retrieval cues trigger memory search

Your ability to generate recall cues may be critical to your successful remembering

Selecting the right trail

Knowing you're going in the right direction

Principles of Retrieving

Successful retrieval requires effective encoding


Making memory codes accessible

The principles of accessibility

Making links stronger

Connecting and clustering: giving meaning to information

Effective principles of clustering

Chapter 5: Selecting the right information

Selection governs connection

Similarity joins and distinctiveness separates

Principles of Encoding

Rote-learning of unrelated material

Memorizing versus learning

Principles of effective selection

Choosing good recall cues for meaningless information

Attention matters

Chapter 6: Working with memory codes

Working memory holds the information you're working on

How working memory and the database interact

How we use working memory

Differences between working memory and database codes

Holding information in working memory

Individual differences in working memory capacity

Chapter 7: Review

Memory situations

The principles

Chapter 8: Identifying different memory domains

Different types of information need to be dealt with in different ways

Specific memory domains

Knowledge memory vs personal memory

Personal memory contains several different memory domains

Chapter 9: General information skills

A classification of memory strategies

Manipulating information for understanding and recall

Taking notes

Active reading

Elaboration strategies

Applying the right study strategy

Your personal learning style

The deep versus the surface approach to learning

Transcending your personal style

Chapter 10: An analysis of memory ‘tricks’

Mnemonic strategies: what are they and do they work

Mnemonic strategies are a special type of memory strategy

Imagery mnemonics

Verbal mnemonics

Mnemonic strategies: What are they good for?

Chapter 11: General support strategies

Information manipulation strategies are task specific

General support strategies support attention

Paying attention

Planning skills

Monitoring skills

Strategies to improve the quality of attention

Manipulating your environment

Manipulating your self

Chapter 12: Becoming a successful strategy user

Your master strategy

Matching memory tasks with appropriate strategies

Being a strategic thinker

Appraising the memory situation

Thinking through a situation

Taking your personal style into account

Chapter 13: Putting it into practice

The cost of memory strategies

How to achieve permanent memory improvement

Glossary of terms





Format: E-book (pdf)

Size: 190 pages

Publisher: Wayz Press (September, 2007)

First published in New Zealand by Tandem Press in 1999

Published in the United States by Career Press in 2000

Published in hardback by Barnes & Noble in 2004