A Sense-ible Study Plan
Imagine you are studying for an examination. You want to increase your understanding of the material being tested, and improve your odds of recalling the important bits on test day. But can you feel what it is like to truly master the material? Are you prepared to revel in the sweet taste of a passing score? Do you smell what it is like to truly know your stuff? I hear you. And, as luck would have it, studies suggest that the senses can be used to deepen learning and improve recall.
Seeing is Believing: Visualization has a long history in the memory field. Exaggerated stories, movement, and humor can be particularly effective. Don't just think of a financial instrument as being illiquid (having a small market). Think of a lone explorer walking in an arid desert trying to find a buyer for it.
Hear it out: Simply reading material aloud can activate the auditory area of the brain. Better still is to use alliteration, rhyme, and other techniques to reinforce the "sound" of a concept.
The Right Touch: Trace out a chart with your fingers. If the advantage of one type of retirement plan is flexibility, stretch when you are learning about it.
The Smell of Success
The olfactory system is closely connected to both the amygdala, which is associated with emotional learning, and the hippocampus, which is associated with memory. German researchers noted an improvement in memory of material when participants were exposed to the smell of rose oil during study and again during deep sleep.
Perhaps even more impressively, rosemary oil has been associated with improving long-term and arithmetic memory without having been used as an initial stimulus. Peppermint has been shown to have similar effects.
Can You Taste Victory?
Similarly, scientists suspect a link between taste and memory. Just as a favorite dish may call up childhood emotions, is it possible that you can train yourself to remember material by consistently eating a certain flavor before studying? Most research suggests that taste is more associated with emotional memory than with recall, though one study did show an improvement by chewing gum.
Some of these techniques require an understanding of what the test environment will be like. Most proctored/invigilated test centers will not, for example, allow you to bring in headphones to recreate a desired auditory environment, so it is probably best not to associate that accounting concept with classical music unless you can do so in your head. If silence will be the case in the exam environment, it is probably best to do your studying in silence as well. You might be permitted to bring in some mints or gum, but a tin of sardines will probably disturb other test takers. You get the point - you don't want associate your study too strongly with conditions that will not be prevalent when you need them.
Have you used any of these techniques (or other ones) to deepen your learning experience? Tell me about it in the comments below.