Actors don’t all have memories like elephants, sometimes they just act like they do.
Researchers have looked to actors for memory clues with the idea of using these actor based techniques to counter cognitive decline.
They found that the secret to actors’ memories is acting; they focus on the meaning of the words and the physical and emotional motivations of the character saying them.
Beyond that, actors break down the script into a series of logically connected chunks using techniques called mnemonics, which are clues and tricks of association that can help them, and us, remember. Here are a few mnemonic tricks worth remembering…
- Use acronyms. They’re a familiar part of our everyday language, NBA (National Basketball Association), and SCUBA (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) for instance. Make your own by rearranging a shopping list. It doesn’t have to be a real word (this isn’t scrabble!), it just has to be something you’ll remember.
- Employ the movement principle. Memory is aided by movement. In one study, actors who learned lines while making an appropriate motion – e.g., walking across a stage – remembered the lines later without the movement.
- Make vivid visual associations. Never forget another name! Associate vivid images with people whose names you want to remember. Rose is a rose. Michael is a mike. Nancy is fancy. A big guy named Robert is ‘Big Bob’.
- Use the Loci Method. Ancient Greek orators and storytellers relied on this technique to remember epic narratives (like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey).
To use this technique, identify a common path that you regularly walk through your home or neighborhood. You must have a vivid visual memory of the path and the objects or landmarks along the path.
The number of objects or landmarks depends on the amount of material you want to remember. For instance, if you want to commit a speech to memory, first divide it up into chunks. Each separate idea or paragraph can be a chunk. Then assign each chunk to an object on the path. As you stop before each object you mentally associate each chunk of information you want to remember with the object or landmark.
- Want it. Motivation to remember goes a long way towards your effort to do so. Joking about how bad your memory is will hamper your ability to remember. You’re more likely to be successful when you expect success.
Don’t forget to stop multi-tasking and pay attention. It takes about 8 seconds of focus to process information and encode it into the brain.