Did you know that the impressions received from your five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell have a significant role in the retention of information in your mind? These are called Memory of Sense Impressions. However, when you come down to a systematic analysis of sense impressions retained in the memory, you’ll find that the majority of such impressions are those acquired through the two respective senses: sight and hearing.
We are constantly exercising our sense of sight, and receiving thousands of different sight impressions every hour. But most of these impressions are insignificantly recorded upon the memory, because we give them little attention or interest.
Before the memory can be stored with sight impressions, before the mind can recollect or remember such impressions, the eye must be used under the direction of the attention. We think that we see things when we look at them, but in reality we see only a few aspects, in the sense of registering clear and unique impressions of them upon the depths of the subconscious mind. We look at them as a whole rather than see them in detail.
For example, there was a man who was attacked by a robber. The man had a close view of the thief’s face. When the victim went to the nearby police station to report the unfortunate incident, he was asked by the police officer to describe the criminal in details. The victim, although having a close view of the man’s face, was unable to give an accurate description to the police. He was unable to perceive well because he’s in a state of nervousness and shock while the thief was assaulting him.
This is a case of “looking without seeing.” The way to train the mind to receive clear sight-impressions, and therefore to retain them in the memory, is simply to concentrate the will and attention upon objects of sight, endeavoring to see them plainly and distinctly, and then to practice recalling the details of the object some time afterward.
Will and attention would not be effective if not combined with interest. You must have the desire or passion to really accomplish the task at hand. Shift your mental focus, by means of will and attention coupled with interest, to overcome the mere “seeing and observing” phenomena. In order to remember the things that pass before your sight, you must begin to see with your mind, instead of just looking with your eyes. Let the impression get beyond your retina and into your mind. If you will do this, you will find that memory will “do it’s thing.”
Many sounds reach the ear but are not retained by the mind. We may pass along a noisy street, the waves of many sounds reaching the nerves of the ear, and yet the mind accepts the sounds of only a few things, particularly when the novelty of the sounds has passed away. It is again a matter of interest and attention in this case.
To acquire the faculty of correct hearing, and correct memory of things heard, the mental faculty of hearing must be exercised, trained and developed. It is a fact that the mind will hear the faintest sounds from things in which is centered interest and attention, while at the same time ignoring things in which there is no interest and to which the attention is not turned. A sleeping mother will wake up at the slightest cry from her baby, while the booming sound of drums in a parade, or even the firing of a gun in the vicinity may not be noticed by her. A skilled physician will detect the faint sounds indicating a respiratory or cardiovascular illness in patients. However, these same people who are able to detect the faint differences in sound, above mentioned, are often known as "poor hearers." The reason is because they hear only that in which they are interested, and to which their attention has been diverted. That is the whole secret, and in it is also to be found the secret of training of the ear-perception. The remedy for "poor hearing," and poor memory of things heard depends on your level of interest and attention.
The reason that many persons do not remember things that they have heard is simply because they have not listened properly. One cannot listen to everything, as it would not be advisable. Persons who have poor memories of ear-impressions should begin to "listen" attentively. You will find the following technique helpful:
Try to remember words, phrases, or sentences that are spoken to you in a conversation. You will find that the effort made to imprint the sentence on your memory will result in a concentration of the attention on the words of the speaker. Do the same thing when you are listening to a teacher, singer, actor, or lecturer. Pick out the words for memorizing, and make up your mind that your memory will receive the impression easily and retain it well. Listen to the tiny bits of dialogue that come to your ears while walking on the street, and aim to memorize a sentence or two, as if you’re going to relate them to another person. Study the expressions and inflections in the voices of persons speaking to you. You will be astonished at the details that such examination will reveal.
. Listen to the tones of various people and strive to distinguish the differences in sound between them. Have your friend read a line or two of poetry, and then endeavor to memorize it. Keep doing this and you will significantly develop the power of voluntary attention to sounds and spoken words. But above everything else, practice repeating the words and sounds that you have memorized, as many times as possible. By doing this, you will get the mind into the habit of taking an interest in sound impressions.
In some cases the impressions of sight and sound are joined together, as for instance in the case of words, in which not only the sound but the shape of the letters composing the word, or rather the word-shape itself, are stored away together, and consequently are far more readily recalled or remembered than things of which only one sense impression is recorded.
Teachers of memory use this information as a means of helping their students to remember words by speaking them aloud, and then writing them down. Many persons memorize names in this way, the impression of the written word being added to the impression of the sound, thus doubling the potential.
The more impressions that you can make regarding a thing, the greater the chances of easily remembering it. Likewise it is very important to attach an impression of a weaker sense, to that of a stronger one, in order that the former may be memorized. For instance, if you have a good eye memory, but a poor ear memory, it is suggested to connect your sound impressions to the sight impressions. And if you have a poor eye memory but a good ear memory, it is important to link your sight impressions to your sound impressions. In this way, you take advantage of the law of association.