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Myths about memory and learning

What are some of the most common myths about memory?

You may have already decided whether you have a good memory or a bad memory. But the truth is, memories can’t be divided in this way.

One of the most frequently cited memory myths is people saying they have “good” or “bad memories, or even a “perfect” memory. However, everyone remembers some things and forgets others, and everyone can improve their memory capacity with the right practice and training.

With that in mind, what are some of the most common myths about memory, and how might they be holding us back?

Myth 1: “I’m too old”

Although many things change as you age, one of the most common memory myths is that you are too old to start learning something new!

When you’re very young, it is definitely easier to learn a new language as your brain is just developing and it is much more able to absorb more skills and information. However, this doesn’t mean once you get past your teens it’s all over!

Over time our brains change, but we also become more experienced and have more practice of learning new things. Going through education, and even just daily life, we come to understand how we learn best. This means when we want to learn something as we get older; we have a whole range skills at our disposal to help us!

Myth 2: “I have a bad memory”

Again, one of the memory myths that everyone is likely to have said or heard someone say at some point, particularly before exams!

However, saying this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-talk is very powerful, so by saying you have a bad memory, it makes you more likely to be forgetful!

Remembering things is all about motivation and priority, and actually wanting to remember that information. If someone paid you to remember the next person’s name that you meet, you would be likely to have a very good memory and remember it easily! This is because you have the incentive of the money, and because of this, it takes a very high priority above other information.

Myth 3: “I don’t want to remember that because my memory is limited”

Currently, researchers have not found any kind of ‘limit’ to memory. It isn’t a finite space that gets ‘filled up’, meaning you can’t remember anything else until you get rid of information.

Instead, it’s all about priority. Forgetting doesn’t mean you’ve run out of space, rather that you’re struggling to retrieve that memory, something which can be improved with practice.

Myth 4: “People with good memories never forget”

No-one has a “perfect” memory, not even those that study and teach memory masterclasses! Everyone forgets certain things, but how people get a seemingly ‘better’ memory is by understanding why they forget and applying what they’ve learnt to their daily life.

Memory courses won’t “cure” forgetfulness, but they can provide you with the necessary techniques and tools to limit the times you do forget something.

Myth 5: “You have a good memory if you can remember thousands of digits of Pi”

Of course, to remember all those digits you must be good at memorising! But memory is all relative.

Memory is a skill which can be applied in real-life scenarios and give you practical help. So having a ‘good’ memory isn’t just about reciting names, data, and information, but also about having a skill to help you get on in life.

How long will it take to improve my memory?

The good thing about improving your memory is that you can start right now!

15 minutes of deliberate practice (no distractions- so put that phone away!), each day for at least 21 days, is shown to have significant results on your ability to learn and memorise.

Regular practice and rehearsing memory challenges will help to improve your memory skills, even for those who claim to have a “bad memory”!

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