"Every perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination."
-- Gerald Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge
3 How to encode stories in the mnemonic medium？5 How to encode stories in the mnemonic medium？How to encode stories in the mnemonic medium？Improving the mnemonic medium: making better cardsHow can we develop transformative tools for thought？2020-10-18Journal
Provide questions and answers in multiple forms: In 1971, the psychologist Allan Paivio proposed the dual-coding theory, namely, the assertion that verbal and non-verbal information are stored separately in long-term memory. Paivio and others investigated the picture superiority effect, demonstrating that pictures and words together are often recalled substantially better than words alone. This suggests, for instance, that the question “Who was George Washington's Vice President?” may have a higher recall rate if accompanied by a picture of Washington, or if the answer (John Adams) is accompanied by a picture of Adams. For memory systems the dual-coding theory and picture superiority effect suggest many questions and ideas. How much benefit is there in presenting questions and answer in multiple forms? Perhaps even with multiple pictures, or in audio or video (perhaps with multiple speakers of different genders, different accents, etc), or in computer code? Perhaps in a form that demands some form of interaction? And in each case: what works best?
Vary the context: In 1978, the psychologists Steven Smith, Arthur Glenberg, and Robert Bjork Steven M. Smith, Arthur Glenberg, and Robert A. Bjork, Environmental context and human memory (1978). reported several experiments studying the effect of place on human memory. In one of their experiments, they found that studying material in two different places, instead of twice in the same place, provided a 40% improvement in later recall. This is part of a broader pattern of experiments showing that varying the context of review promotes memory. We can use memory systems to support things like: changing the location of review; changing the time of day of review; changing the background sound, or lack thereof, while reviewing. In each case, experiments have been done suggesting an impact on recall. It's not necessarily clear how robust the results are, or how reproducible – it's possible some (or all) are the results of other effects, uncontrolled in the original experiment. Still, it seems worth building systems to test and (if possible) improve on these results.
How do the cards interact with one another? What is the ideal network structure of knowledge? This is a very complicated and somewhat subtle set of questions. Let's give a simple example to illustrate the idea. We've presented the cards in the mnemonic medium as though they are standalone entities. But there are connections between the cards. Suppose you have cards: “Who was George Washington’s Vice President?” (Answer: “John Adams”, with a picture of Adams); “What did John Adams look like?” (Answer: a picture of Adams); perhaps a question involving a sketch of Adams and Washington together at some key moment; and so on. Now, this set of cards forms a network of interrelated cards. And you can use a memory system like Quantum Country to study that network. What happens to people's observed recall if you remove a card? Are there crucial lynchpin cards? Are there particularly effective network structures? Particularly effective types of relationship between cards? Crucially: are there general principles we can identify about finding the deepest, most powerful ways of representing knowledge in this system?