Many memory experts believe that association is an essential step in remembering something for a long time . Associating means connecting new information or images with something you already know . We all frequently make associations, often without realizing it.

An example illustrates this process . I had often read that if you make a very bizarre, unusual mental image, you remember it better than you would a more commonplace one . This information became my “known . ” Then I read that according to research studies a more unusual image is not remembered any better Because I quickly associated this new information with what I already knew, the new information was securely locked into my memory .

Experts have a relatively easy time remembering new information in their field because they can usually find some related, known information with which to associate the new information .

Natural and Artificial Associations

The case just mentioned about the unusual images is an example of a natural association. A natural association is one in which the connection does not have to be forced; it occurs naturally . To make an artificial association you must use your imagination and create an association where one did not exist before .

The following example illustrates the difference between natural and artificial associations . You read in your geology text that magma is the molten, liquid matter under the earth’s crust . If you happened to know that the prefix mag means to knead, you could easily make a natural association to remember the definition of magma: Magma is molten; therefore it can be “kneaded . ”

But if you do not know the meaning of mag, you can make an artificial association . First, you must ask yourself what the prefix mag reminds you of: magnesium? magnet? “mag” automobile wheels? maggot? Maggie? The word you choose depends on your personal universe of experience and knowledge .

Let’s assume that you choose the word magnet. Then, you might visualize a magnet floating on some molten, liquid matter . Later, when you think of the word magma, it will remind you of a magnet, which yo u will visualize connected to molten matter .

Logical Associations .

Closely related to natural associations are logical associations, or the “that makes sense” associations . However , instead of making an association with a specific piece of information, you are associating the new information with a general feeling that it makes sense or fits in with your view of how things ought to be . Suppose you read in your psychology text that adolescents are more likely to feel unwanted by their parents if their parents are either extremely controlling or extremely ignoring . You might remember this fact by saying to your – self that it seems logical . It fits . It makes sense .

Use of Symbols .

Symbols make abstract concepts, ideas, names an d feelings more tangible and concrete . When you want to tell people you love them, you might send them a valentine heart . If you want to express patriotic feelings, you might display a flag

Two propositions are central to the use of mnemonic systems .

You can remember something better if you can make it concrete .

Any idea, concept, name, fact, etc ., that you want to remember can be made concrete through the use of a symbol .

In the example above of magma, we chose the magnet as a symbol to make a connection between the word and its definition . The name/occupation exercise on pages 5–6 uses symbols to help remember the names and occupations of the people . Anything, no matter how abstract , can be symbolized to make it concrete . Some things require more imagination and creativity than others, but the translation can be made .