Imagination and memory

Imagining something from a personal perspective can be an effective strategy in helping memorise it, says new study.

Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us —Oscar Wilde

Woman pondering

At times the words and details in the diary are hazy and not very accessible. A new research found an effective strategy for good storage and recall of memory. It has shown that self-imagination—imagining something from a personal perspective—can be an effective strategy for helping us to recognize something we’ve seen before or retrieve specific information on cue. And these beneficial effects have been demonstrated for both healthy adults and for individuals who suffer memory impairments as a result of brain injury.

There has been no research as yet that investigated the effect of self-imagination on what is perhaps the most difficult, and most relevant, type of memory: free recall.

Psychological scientists Matthew Grilli and Elizabeth Glisky of the University of Arizona chose to put self-imagination to the test. They wanted to compare self-imagination to more traditional strategies that involve sense of self in order to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that might be at work.

Grilli and Glisky found that, in comparison to the more traditional self-referential strategies, the participants with memory impairments were better able to remember a word if they were asked to think about how well it described them [semantic] than if they were asked to think about a time when they acted out the personality trait [episodic].

This result falls in line with previous findings that knowledge about specific events from the past is often impaired in patients with brain injury. It also lends support to the researchers’ hypothesis that the benefit of self-imagination for memory-impaired patients might be related to their ability to retrieve knowledge regarding their own personality traits, identity roles, and lifetime periods.

These findings could have important applications for memory enhancement among memory-impaired patients as well as healthy adults.

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