Episode #1 of the course How to improve your memory by David Urbansky
Hello and welcome to this course on understanding and improving your memory.
Over the next ten episodes, I will teach you proven techniques that you can use in everyday life to remember names, numbers, faces, and anything else you care about.
But why would anyone want a better memory, anyway? What’s the point in a time when we can outsource our memory to smartphones and computers? Here are just a few reasons why a good memory is actually essential, not just “nice to have.”
Improved learning. Memorizing has gotten a bad reputation in Western culture, as rote learning has fallen out of favor, with educators instead preferring so-called meaningful learning. We are supposed to understand, not just recall. However, you can only really understand things you already know and remember. Understanding requires us to connect the dots between familiar concepts and make sense of them. If I tell you any fact, such as “owls can fly,” you can only understand the meaning of this statement if you know (that is, remember) what “owls” are and what “flying” is. Imagine if you needed your smartphone to look up these concepts just to make sense of this simple statement! Of course, this is an exaggerated example but it illustrates the point. The more information stored in your memory, the more connections you can make and the more new things you can learn quickly.
Social advantages. Let’s say you’re at a party and meet a new group of people. Everybody introduces themselves with their names and where they are from. Later in the evening, you run into an Australian woman you met earlier. If you can say, “Hi, Sally, what brings you here from Down Under?” she will likely be pleasantly surprised that you remembered her name—especially because she probably forgot yours. In fact, research has shown remembering someone’s name is perceived as a compliment, and can even make you a more effective salesperson .
Science aside, listening to others and remembering personal details so you can bring them up in future conversations not only proves that you have a good memory but also that you care. Plus, you’ll give the best birthday presents if you can remember little remarks that your friends made and don’t even recall themselves.
Be knowledgeable. The more information you have in your memory, the more credible you will seem. Compare the following statements. Which person do you think actually knows more?
• Normal person: “Rainbows are colorful. It has something to do with how the sun shines on the rain, I think.”
• Highbrow user: “Rainbows consist of a spectrum of colors created by reflection, refraction, and dispersion of sunlight in water droplets.”
If you have to pull out your smartphone for your information, you destroy the flow of the conversation and you will never be the MVP at trivia night.
With a good memory, you can even remember quotes and add, “’The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain,’ as Dolly Parton said.” Impressive.
Be funny. Everyone wants to be funny, but it doesn’t always come naturally. Even if you aren’t a born comedian, remembering jokes is one way to make others laugh. Humor has also been shown to improve memory, so learning a few jokes could be a win-win .
And there are so many more advantages of a good memory, such as:
• knowing recipes by heart so you can cook them on vacation, even if there is no Wi-Fi
• giving speeches without notes to look much more confident and prepared
• learning new languages to connect you to more people
Today, you have learned that a good memory is important and can improve your life in many ways. You have made a great decision to subscribe to this course, as each lesson will teach you easy, practical techniques to improve your own memory!
See you tomorrow. Don’t forget!
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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
 “What’s in a Name? A Complimentary Means of Persuasion”
 The Impact of Humor on Memory: Is the Humor Effect about Humor?
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