Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Future memory and learning

Future memories
Been researching memory theory (the real psychological key to learning) and came across a strange but massively relevant concept for learning – prospective memory – where you remember to do something in the future. It is tempting to see memory wholly in terms of the past, but we all have to remember to do things in the future. Learning works when it is applied.

We all have to remember to attend meetings, watch a TV programme or take a pill at times in the future. To do this our brains need cues to remind us. This is terribly important in the application of learning, where what we have learnt has to be applied in the real world.

Pop-in effect
The curious thing about such ‘memories’ is that they seem to just ‘pop’ into your mind. One school of thought (attention is necessary) claims that we need to be attentive, constantly monitoring to recall the intention. Another school (multiprocess) claims that attention and monitoring is not necessary. Whatever the mechanism, an understanding of what we need to do to encourage prospective memory is important in learning. We need to know how to store learning experiences so that prospective memory is used to best effect. It would seem that deliberately designed ‘representations’ to aide prospective memory really do work and that these need to be part of the learning process.

So don't forget to remember this idea next time you’re learning, teaching or training.

Winograd, E. (1988). Some observations on prospective remembering. In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris & R. N. Sykes (Eds.), Practical Aspects of Memory: Current Research and Issues (Vol. 2, pp. 348-353). Chichester: Wiley.

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