Giving memory a turbo boost | Sunday Observer

Giving memory a turbo boost

A few days ago I met one of my long-lost friends on the pavement opposite Lake House. He smiled and kept on looking at me quizzically. I knew what the problem was. He had forgotten my name! I worked with him for more than four years in a government department. He was my boss and I was his assistant. Even at that time he showed signs of memory lapses. One day, he came to office in his car and left leaving it in the car park. After going home he rang the office to check whether his car was in the park. Later we found that he had gone home by bus!

Although I found Sam’s (not his real name) memory lapses troubled him, psychologists say that such forgetfulness does not necessarily signal trouble. According to the well-known psychologist Daniel Schacter of Harvard University, you need not worry about such lapses unless you experience a noticeable and consistent decline in memory or you are not able to function at work. In the latter event you need to see a doctor.

Forgetting names

For most people such memory lapses are just a normal part of life. Experts say mild deficits in memory begin in the 40s and 50s and increase in later years. However, psychologists have found some common types of memory lapses and how to cope with them.

It is very common for us to forget the names of people we used to work with. When somebody introduces one of your old friends you try to jog your memory to recall his name. On most occasions you fail to recall his name. These are known as TOT (tip-of-the-tongue) incidents. Psychologists say, such lapses have nothing to do with remembering the meaning of a word you learnt some years ago. For some strange reason, most of us forget the names of the people we once knew intimately.


If we meet a particular person every now and then, we never forget his name. If you wish to remember a person’s name, repeat it several times or write it down in your diary. Writing has a close connection with memory. When you write down something you tend to remember it for a long time. That is why we take down notes when we follow lectures. The more you write, the more you remember.

A TOT experience becomes worse when a similar-sounding but an incorrect name pops up. Sometimes, you call your friend “Bob” but his real name may be “Robert”. When this happens you have to shift your focus to something else. After some time, the correct name will come to you.

Most people forget where they kept their keys, spectacles or even notebooks. Schacter says, forgetting where you left something or wondering why you entered a room are caused by a simple lack of attention. If you wish to remember something you will have to encode it deeply in your mind. By the way, encoding is not a complex process. Pay extra attention to an event if you wish to recall it later. For instance, most of us do not forget our date of birth or when we got married simply because they were important events in our lives.

Today, most people forget where they kept their mobile phones. This happens when you do not pay enough attention to your mobile phone and where you keep it. Your memory per se is not to be blamed. The trouble is, you fail to give the correct information to the memory.

Some students complain they cannot remember the spelling of certain words and their meanings. Even a long word such as, ‘Antidisestablishmentarianism’ (The belief which opposes removing the tie between church and state) can be memorized instantly by breaking it into syllables. On the other hand, if you are interested in learning English, you will never forget new words and their meanings.


Another common episode of absent-mindedness is walking into a room wondering why you are doing so. This happens when you are not organized. Before you enter a room you should know the reason for going there.

The human brain cannot store all that we see, hear and read. We must have the ability to splice together bits of necessary information and reject the rest. It is like deleting unnecessary files from a computer’s memory. I remember a boy who tried to remember everything he read. He used to read posters and repeat the words exactly. However, he did not know what to remember and what to forget. As a result he could not complete his studies successfully.

Psychologists have recommended some memory boosters for those who forget things easily. They believe, a cup of coffee or two might help if you are engaged in a task that demands memorizing facts and figures. Insufficient sleep also may lead to absent-mindedness, but sleep medication can cause grogginess and forgetfulness.

The best remedy appears to be regular exercise. Those who take regular exercise such as walking, rarely suffer from memory lapses. Apart from doing physical exercises, doing crossword puzzles and learning a new language will also give a turbo boost to your memory.

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