There once was a time when humans held everything we knew in our heads. which may sound impossible lately when the web is at our fingertips, except for millennia, it had been our only way of passing on knowledge.
Now, some researchers want to remind us that there’s still place for ancient memory techniques to be taught within the modern times . And there’s quite one such technique, too.
In ancient Greece and Rome, people would construct mental maps with a way referred to as a memory palace or method of loci. As their mind walked from room to room, scholars and clergy were ready to recall facts and data that they had attached to certain household features, ex- a rug, a desk, or a window.
Today, this Western technique still used’ by medical students to cram an encyclopedia of data into their brains, but a latest study suggests a good older memory ‘code’ used by people from Australia’s First Nations might be a far better choice for memorizing copious amounts of data .
Aboriginal Australians are a part of the oldest living culture on Earth, and for over 60,000 years, their stories and knowledge are passed from generation to generation via songlines and dreamings.
These ancient stories, woven into artwork, songs, or dance, are intimately tied to the landscape, allowing Elders to recall crucial information regarding seasons, food sources, navigation, tool making, and laws as they walk by certain plants, animals or rocks.
The narrative-based technique is remarkably almost like the ‘memory palace’, and therefore the researchers behind the new paper think this ancient wisdom are often utilized in a “respectful, culturally safe manner” to assist medical students and health professionals remember long lists of facts.
In their study, 76 undergraduate medical students in rural Australia were enrolled and split into three groups, all of which might need to memorize a uniform list of 20 butterfly names. to start out off, all students had to undertake and memorize the list.
One of the groups then spent subsequent half-hour learning a narrative-based memory technique by an experienced Australian Aboriginal educator. During this lesson, each member in the group walked around a garden and constructed a story connecting each butterfly name to a visible feature, like a rock, a plant or a concrete slab.
The students then practiced walking the narrative in their mind, recalling each element and name as they did so so as . The group was then tested again.
Meanwhile, another group of scholars were instructed for half-hour on the memory palace technique. Using this method, the group incorporated each butterfly name into a mental plan of their childhood home.
As an control, students within the 3rd group were asked to recall the butterfly names with none instruction.
In the end, both sorts of memory training allowed students to recall the list better than once they attempted it on their own. But the group that learned the Australian Aboriginal technique made significantly fewer errors than those that used the memory palace method.
After training in’ this ancient Aboriginal technique, students were almost 3 times as likely to recollect the whole list in their second test.
Those who learned the memory palace technique were twice as likely to urge a excellent score after memory training. Meanwhile, the control group only improved about 50 percent in their second attempt.
“Student responses to learning the Australian Aboriginal memory technique within the context of life science education were overwhelmingly favorable, and students found both the training and therefore the technique enjoyable, interesting, and more useful than rote memorization,” the authors write.
The findings suggest a narrative-based memory technique is beneficial for studying biomedical sciences, especially when the order of facts matters. Still, the technique only really works if the scholars keep practicing.
Six weeks later, when same to same participants were asked to recall the list of butterflies again, those that were trained in memory palace technique remembered more of the butterfly names. Meanwhile those students who were trained within the Australian Aboriginal method scored equally to the untrained group.
The sample size is little , so it’s hard to read an excessive amount of into these results. Nevertheless, the authors suggest the Australian Aboriginal method “requires sustained practice and repeated exposure” to the landscape to carry on to the information for longer than each day .
“This study reveals several subtle, but important advantages for teaching of the Australian Aboriginal memorization method as compared to the more widely known memory palace technique,” researchers conclude.
“In particular the Australian Aboriginal method seems better suited to teaching during a single, relatively short instruction period.”
All of this just goes to point out that to carry on to stories for millennia would require dedication and a very close connection to the landscape.
The study was published in PLOS One.