Learning Faster with Your Minds Eye
Imagery as a Learning Technique
by Richard Brown
Imagery Learning Technique is very straight forward. In this learning technique you form mental pictures. Using your minds eye is something most everybody does, and for some reason it isn't used as often as it could be. The formation of mental images is crucial for solving day to day problems. It is part of ordinary repertoire of mental process that everyone is capable of (if you can read this you're not blind). You can turn this innate ability into a learning technique by actively using it.
You use mental imagery more then you think. When you read a story, you will often remember it as a series of images, not as written words. When you watch a movie, you constantly use this capacity. Very few movies are one long take. The editor takes a series of shots to form a scene. You apply meaning to the shoots by linking them together with mental imagery. Did you see the woman get stabled in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho? No you didn't. You imagined the woman getting stabbed with mental imagery. This highly suggestive series of shots used your ability to form mental imagery, creating a scene were a woman was stabbed in a shower. Film editors constantly use your minds proclivity to form images in every scene of every movie, with very few exceptions.
Using it more then passively
For some unknown reason, people are never taught to do this actively. It's the simplest learning technique that there is, and one of the most effective. If you want to remember something, form a mental image of it. If you want to solve a problem, make mental picture of the steps needed to be taken. If you want to lean a concept, make a chain of mental pictures that express that idea. If you want to be creative, form a novel combination of objects, ideas, processes, or what ever your working with. Sounds simple right? That's because it is.
The more developed your mental picture is, the more memorable it will be. Your mental picture isn't limited like a photograph. You can tie you other senses into it. Imagine a rose. By imagining a the rose saying “I'm a rose” you're tying in you sense of sound. Remember the smell of a rose, now imagine your mental rose smelling like that. You're now tying in your sense of smell. Imagine getting poked by a thorn on the stem. This builds on your sense of touch. Imagine licking the coppery tasting blood off your finger.
You can't taste a hamburger on TV, but every fast food commercial try's to get you to imagine the taste. By tying in more of your senses, you can establish a stronger connection that you can use to remember and understand anything.
do you know of other learning strategies?
Remembering daily things
The most useful part of Mental Imagery Learning Technique, is it's easy application to day-to-day life. You can stop forgetting were you put your keys, or that you need to put a letter in the mail. Make it a habit to form a mental picture of were you put your keys, and you will stop forget were you put them. Make a mental “movie” of you grabbing the out bound mail, walking to the mail box, and putting the mail inside. This will help you to remember to put mail in the mail box. It be applied to anything, including but not limited to: purse, keys, wallet, cell phone, watch, groceries, errands, chores, birthdays, anniversaries, appointments, even phone numbers (which I will discuss further). Those daily forgetful moments can reduced or eliminated. There is a secondary benefit to this learning technique also; you will remember and understand things easier, even when your not actively using it.
Mental imagery is used extensively in sports. Mentally rehearsing the movements, is almost as effective as doing the action. You should rehearse perfect performances. If you rehearse bad habits, you will learn bad habits. The more the bad habit it rehearsed, the harder it will be to stop doing the bad habit. Make your mental imagery detailed. You want to mentally recreate the action as close to real life as possible. The sounds, smells, feel, and sights are an important part of game time, and will make this technique more effective.
Racing cars is a sport that I am familiar with. There is an extremely limited amount of practice laps that a racer can do. Imagine your in your race car going around the track; the noise, the smell, the heat radiating from the floor boards, the view from the drivers seat as the green flag drops. You rock on the throttle accelerating as fast as possible, while keeping the tires from spinning. Your going in low to keep the competition from getting underneath you. Imagine pressing on the brake at the braking point for corner one. Let off the brake as you guide the car into the corner. As you let off the brake you turn the steering wheel as the cars weight shifts, loading the suspension. The suspension continues to slowly compress as you make the apex. You apply throttle, while letting the steering return to neutral. The suspension rebounds as you approach the wall going down the back stretch. The engine whines through the power band, and again you brake into another corner. There is a rhythm to the track. Your hands and feet working in coordination to keep tire cohesion as the world whizzes by. Try to stay relaxed just as you would in a race. Keep your breathing slow and deep. Imagine your hands and feet doing everything they would be doing if you were driving the perfect line.
You can do an unlimited amount of these imaginary laps. You are not constrained by practice time-blocks, tires, or fuel. Wear and tear is not a concern because the race car in your head never breaks down.
As you develop your racing ability to can add new factors; like working your way through traffic, passing moves, alternative lines, compensating for slight mechanical problems, differences in tire cohesion as the tires heat up, even responding to collisions.
Martial arts is another excellent example. You do not always have a willing partner to practice take downs and throws; even when you do, you have to be gentle. You can practice mentally by going through the exact motions necessary.
An effective hip throw starts with a close face to face with a slight angle. If both of you are normal stance you want to bring your hips parallel, while placing your back foot next to the outside of his leading foot. Brace his arm across your chest with your left arm. Grab his torso with your right arm. Twist and lean to your left. Do this as fluidly and as quickly as possible. Remain in control of his right arm that is braced across your chest. What are the rules to the competition? Do you allow him to fall while you remain up right? If you follow him to the ground. Trap him under your body as you gain side control. Keep his right arm trapped as you sweep his legs with your right arm. Follow your right arm with your right knee, driving it over his abdomen. Gain the full mount. Again do this as fluidly and as quickly as possible. Don't wait for the to of you to be on the ground to begin the transition to full mount. You shouldn't do this in competition and you shouldn't do this in your imagination.
Practice doesn't necessarily make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Don't practice making mistakes, even for pretend, because your mind is conditioning it's self for real. Mental imagery is thoroughly used in every highly successful team, and coached to every player. Every champion uses this technique and you can too.
Reading Fiction and History
There is a very good chance you already use mental imagery when reading. There are very few people who remember what they read as a procession of words. Most people remember what they read as a series of ideas and pictures. You can enhance this innate capacity by purposefully visualizing; giving each character a unique voice, and smelling-tasting-and-feeling what each of the characters experience. What you imagine doesn't have to be in described in the text; it's your imagination be imaginative.
Science is a diverse subject. How you would visualize Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and many others requires slight adjustments. The best way is to not think of mental imagery as pictures, but as movies instead; with the full sense accompaniment. Most of science is not knowing what something is, but how similar things interact. How things are similar is a mater of context. Use this context to create your “movies”.
Chemistry is probably the most difficult science subject, that I know of, to visualize (I find Sub-Atomic Physics a lot easier). Most chemistry text books start with large-general behaviors such as chemical solutions, then progress down through atoms into to electron behavior. Giving your mental “movies” the context of microscope will help. As the class progresses the movies zoom in. The previous “movies” can be explained by the new ones. Make chemical groups beasts with the similar characteristics. Chemicals that can have multiple charges are given colors to to identify them. Ionic reactions are love affairs. Valence electrons become custody battles. Romance is good starting ground to build mental imagery especially for chemistry.
Physics is really one of the easier sciences to visualize. Physics is the study of the physical world. Electricity is can be measured in volts and amps. Voltage is the difference between to poles and amperage is the amount of current. Both combine to create power. A good comparison is a dam amperage is the size of the river. Voltage is the height of the dam. A little bit of water falling a long ways has the same amount of power as a big river falling a very short distance. Lightning has a voltage rating in the millions, but people survive being struck. People survive being struck because lighting has very low voltage. Utility power lines have voltage ratings of less then a thousand but touching one while grounded would kill you. This is because there is a lot of current passing through it.
One of the most studied areas of imagery learning is foreign languages. People are much more successful at leaning other languages, if they form mental pictures of what the word means, and then incorporate a word that sounds like it in their native language. The word “mar” means sea in Spanish. By imagining the red planet Mars floating in a sea, it is easier to learn and remember. The word “nino” means boy in Spanish: the number 9 growing arms and legs in a kindergarten class. The word “gato” means cat in Spanish: a gator growing whiskers and fur, purring and rubbing it's self against a scratching post. In Spanish the word “amor” means romantic love: cupid as a knight in shining armor. Not all words are as easy but even a lose image will help. In Spanish “Abuela” means grandmother: an Abby of nuns that look like your grandmother.
If you want to remember lectures simply imagine what the person is talking about. I have used this extensively. I have a sever case of ADD, and paying attention to what people are talking about is a real struggle for me. By actively imagining what people are talking about, I can stay focused. I make my daydreaming relevant to the lecture. I have a better memory of what they said then they do, which is a big change. I used to be lost after the first minute, and now I can quote them 20 minutes in. The more you do it the better you get. This not only improves your memory while your doing it, but also when your not.
Math is abstract by it's very nature. The numbers and symbols are abstract. Mathmatical concepts and relationships are abstract. Imagery can be used to remember more then the numbers and symbols. The concepts can be learned by imagery.
Remember doing story problems. The reason that they were given was to help you form a mental image of the concept. Story problems aren't supposed to be the ending questions to demonstrate understanding. They should involved in the introductory learning process, to develop a basic comprehension. Unfortunately many math text books aren't written with story problems first. Develop your own story problems to give some meaning to the barrage of numbers and symbols given as examples. After you have read the instructions, but before the problems set. Doing this will help you to comprehend what you are doing. It will tun the problems from a mere rehearsal of steps, into a concept that can be used outside of given notation problems. If your textbook gives stories for the examples, actively visualize the problems. It's difficult to learn and comprehend things that have no context to reality. Math is abstract by it's nature, but math mathematical concepts are used express relationships between real things.
Coded Number Mnemonic
The more abstract an object, idea, or process is, the more difficult it can be to form a mental image. A way to remember numbers is to give each one a general constant sound. Consonants are tongue positions when forming words, and vowels are tongue movements. By turning numbers in to words and creating a story out of them you can remember them much easier.
0 can be S or Z, because of the Z sound. 1 can be T or D, because the upper-and-lower case forms of both T-and-D have a vertical straight line. 2 looks like a side ways N. 3 looks like a sideways M. 4 looks like a backwards P or a rotated lowercase b. 5 has is pronounced with an F-and-V; V is also it's roman numeral. 6 is SH or CH, we need something to go with 6 and these are the odd balls (there can be sexual references made). 7 looks like an upside down L. K can be made into an 8. K, Q, and C make the same sound. 9 with a line is R.
W, H, G, J can be used to help form words, even though they don't represent numbers. X is a combination of K and S.
Translating numbers into words gives them a form that can be easily pictured. Only the pronounced letters are numbers. Truck turns to 198, because there is only one K sound. The word psychology turns to 087. In the word psychology the p is not pronounced, the ch is pronounce like a K, and the G doesn't mean anything.
Longer number strings are difficult to make into single words, or even coherent phrases. The 20 digit random number 392-208-587-784-360-813-46, can be made into: mornin' sack folk lilly call cabin match sat map shoe. At this stage it's random words. We can change the words into pictures that are related to each other. In the Mornin', a Sack, full of Folk, singers was placed on a Lilly, pad to Call, like a frog outside the Cabin, built out of Match, sticks that Sat, on a Map, next to a Shoe. Repeat this, put an emphasis on the words that mean numbers, and pause after them. As you recite make the mental image. This is how anyone can remember ridiculously long numbers.
Most numbers don't come as lines of 20 digits. The number is broken up into 2, 3, and 4 digit groups. Each group correlates to something. The whole number doesn't have to be memorized all at once. Usually the first parts are similar to other numbers, and the later numbers are unique. A telephone number is 11 digits. The first number is the country: 1 for U.S.A. The next is the area code: (509) for Eastern Washington. Then comes the prefix: 488 for the local area, town, or district. Then comes the individual phone 1111. Uncle Sam holing up his big Toe. A one dollar bill with George Washington's face being split by a Fissure. Shakespeare's Othello being played by transvestite Bucocky troupe. Then the individual, call it little mayors pizza, marching with Todd and Dad. This technique can be used for stock numbers, model numbers, client lists, produce codes, or almost any string of numbers.
For shorter numbers you can make peg words. Peg words are words that you use over and over when ever a number appears in isolation; like 6. You can start with the single digit numbers and then work into 2 digit numbers. 0 is S: Sew starts with the letter S and does not use any of the other meaningful letters. 1 is T or D: Toe starts with T and again doesn't use any other meaningful letters. 2 is N: Night. 3 is M: Mow. 4 is B or P: Bow. 5 is F or V: Vow. 6 is CH, or SH: Show. 7 is L: Low. 8 is C or K: Cow. 9 is R: Row. That's the first ten once you have these rehearsed for immediate recall you can begin going through the double digits to 99. 11 is DaD. 12 is TaN. 13 is DaM. 14 is TaPe. 15 is DiVe. 16 is TouCH. 17 is DolL. 18 is TacK. 19 is DooR. You can continue you this to however far you want to practice. Making these peg words will make using this mnemonic easier and more effective.
The coded number mnemonic does take practice but is very effective. The more you practice the better you get.
Coded Number Mnemonic can be adapted to other things that aren't easily visualized, like playing cards. There are 2 ways to count cards. A soft count is adding and subtracting values for card types. The hard count is knowing what cards haven't been played. The Coded Number Mnemonic is how people do a hard count. There are people that can count into multiple decks, and this is how it's done.
There are 13 playing cards in 4 different suits. Face cards can be represented as: Aces are 1, Jacks are 11, Queens are 12, Kings are 13. Each suit can be represented by another number: Spades are 1, Clubs are 2, Hearts are 3, Diamonds are 4. Give the card number and then the suit. Ace of spades becomes 11, 1 for Ace and another 1 for Spade. 11 represents DaD. Do this for a whole deck, and then rehearse until all the cards can be automatically recalled on sight. When a card is shown to you make the mental picture. You will find that knowing which cards are no longer in play, becomes a lot easier.
To count cards in most games, you want to know which cards haven't been played. To do this, when you see the card played make the mental image of it, and then destroy it. You could tear the image up, burn it, dissolve it in water, vaporize it with a ray gun, freeze and shatter like Sub-Zero in mortal combat, eat it, and many others.
It will take a while to get this down to the point that you can count one deck at game speed, but as you progress to multiple decks using each destruction in order. The first King of Hearts is 313 or MoDeM, and the first destruction is dissolving. A MoDeM is dropped into a bucket of water and dissolves like Alka Seltzer. The second King of Hearts becomes a MoDeM burning. The third King of Hearts becomes a MoDeM being chewed on by my dog. The fourth King of Hearts becomes a MoDeM being vaporized by Marvin the Martian. The fifth is destroyed by Sub-Zero. Each destruction is easily remembered and the cards that are still in play are a lot easier to remember.
It's called a hard count because it is hard. Very few people can count into 4, 5, 6, or even 7 decks. Using this mnemonic improves your chances, by giving you more accurate knowledge of what hasn't been played. If you realize that a lot face cards of a suit are still in the deck, you might put a little extra money on match play. At the very least it's a good memory exercise game that will help your memory well beyond playing cards.
Imagery learning technique is very versitile, and is only limited by your imagination. It can be adapted to almost any situation and environment. We use our imaginations innately. Transforming this passive ability into an active practice is a very effective learning technique. As with all learning activities, the more you do it the better you will get at it.