Many techniques are now employed that help increase memory storage and, more importantly, memory recall. And, these same techniques can improve how you read and take notes. After all, we all rely on our memories to provide the information and answers we need for those all-important exam questions! One of these techniques is known as mind mapping, and this chapter will tell you what it is and how you can chart your own course to better memory recall. Thought to have been used all the way back to the time of Poephry in the 3rd century, mind mapping became quite popular in the 1960s thanks to a British psychologist by the name of Tony Buzan.
In first defining a mind map, it has been described as a graphical way to show ideas and concepts, structuring information you need to know around visual landmarks that can help you understand, analyse, and recall that information. Just as a physical map would work to help you get from point A to point B, a mind map works in a similar fashion to get you to focus on imagery that pushes the information deeper into the brain. Some even say that this technique works better than traditional note-taking tactics noted in the previous chapter.
Beyond just replacing linear note-taking and enhancing memory recall, mind mapping has been utilised in many capacities:
- Creative and brainstorming sessions
- Problem solving
- Study and research
- A method for unbundling complex subjects and complicated issues
- Consolidation and presentation of information
This tool provides a way to increase focus, organisation, communication, direction and creativity that the mind clearly has the capacity to deliver when provided with a tool to unlock its real potential.
The reason it works so well is that the brain has been found to respond more to pictures than to alphanumeric symbols. Pictures and shapes are easier to recall for the brain with the left half of the brain looking at what it is fed in a linear fashion whilst the right side looks at the big pictures and responds to colours and information flow as it holds the creative base within the human mind. In this way, the mind map keeps both sides of the brain happy and engaged in the process that it is trying to accomplish.
Now that you know what it is and how it can help you, the next step is getting started with using one for your note-taking and revising strategy. There are four things to know about what goes into a mind map:
- There is a central image that represents the primary subject area. For you, this could be the class topic or subject area you are taking notes on or revising for.
- Main branches that come from that central image represent various main themes connected to and associated with that central image or primary subject area. Each of these branches relates back to the central image and broadens the ideas that must be recalled in connection with that idea.
- Further branching occurs from those main branches to add minor themes to the central image and idea being studied.
- All branches need to be connected together to form what is called a nodal structure.
What you end up with is something that resembles the physiology and activity that actually occurs in the brain. Hence, that is why it is called mind mapping; it is tracing the same routes and connections that keep the brain working. It then makes sense that this technique could be highly beneficial.
Let's get started:
- Get a blank piece of paper. You can do this on your computer or tablet device as well if that is more comfortable for you. Put your paper or screen display in landscape placement.
- Put the central topic in the centre of the sheet and then develop the main branches of subtopics that you will connect back to the centre portion of the mind map.
- Continue adding subtopics and further branching as you see fit and according to your topic. Some topics may need more branches than others, depending on the complexity of the topic.
- Use colours, symbols, and drawings to illustrate the mind map with different colours representing the various levels of topic detail so that you can easily designate the difference between a main topic, subtopic, and sub-subtopic.
- Minimise the use of words on the mind map to just a single word or find a picture that represents the idea. This technique works because it is visual rather than relying on the linear use of many words and sentences that the brain has a harder time processing.
- Employ different sizes of text, hues, and alignment among the main and sub-branches to strengthen the visual cues that the mind map is intended to provide the brain to keep it more engaged in the learning, analysing, and memorising process.
All of these actions are intended to strengthen and diversify what you see to help the brain more effectively process all the information. With different shapes, colours, and images to focus on, the brain becomes more interested and, therefore, more engaged in what you are trying to accomplish. It all goes back to the idea that if you actually make learning fun, more people will do it and better results will be achieved whether it is a better essay, a solution to a complex problem, or more effective revising for top exam marks.
Now let's learn some other ways to ignite your memory! Follow me to the next chapter!