Sep. 27, 2019

Memory: it is a lot more complicated than you think.

One aspect of memory is performance, which refers to short-term memory and mastery. For trainees, performance can be passing a test after a short training period. After all, the crammed information still resides in short-term memory, and is easily accessed. This quick, constant repetition of knowledge is similar to repeating a phone number until it is dialed. However, in both examples, the information is quickly forgotten and discarded by the mind before it can be moved to long-term memory.

Transfer, on the other hand, refers to long-term memory. Transfer guarantees that a student has learned and mastered a skill, can recall the information easily and perform accurately now and in the future, unlike with performance’s short-term memory. Similar to behavioral long-term memory, the long-term synaptic changes require new protein synthesis for the information to be stored. While short-term memory changes do not cause this significant change in the brain.

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Information absorbed automatically resides in short-term memory. Transitioning information from short-term to long-term is graded and takes time, effort and constant practice. Below are 5 tips on improving long-term memory:

1. Repetition

Each person has over one hundred billion—100,000,000,000—neurons in their brain. Each neuron is connected to thousands of others, each relaying and storing information as needed. Neurons transfer information by firing impulse signals to their neighbors, who continue to distribute the information throughout the cortex. As a person repeats an action or studies certain materials, groups of neurons begin to fire together in the same pattern, making for easier recall.

2. Add Variety

Instructors must present the information in multiple ways, such as teaching a technique in a classroom setting, then immediately switching to a situation or scenario in which the technique can be practiced. For trainees, studying should change from reading the material to presenting to a fellow classmate.

3. Avoid Cramming

A brief cramming session will store the information in short-term (performance) rather than long-term (transfer) because the information has not been reviewed and recalled multiple times. While this can be beneficial in the present, such as passing a test, it causes significant harm in the future as the information is lost and extremely difficult to recall—especially in a stressful or complicated situation.

4. Visualize

More than half of the population are visual learners, also called spatial learners, meaning they learn best through forms of visual communication. This can range from drawing diagrams on a whiteboard to showing images and video. But to visualize the information processed requires going a step further. In the case of trainees, visualizing a certain technique means practicing it in role-playing and virtual scenarios.

5. Sleep

Research shows that sleep is crucial for transferring information to long-term memory. Our brains need dedicated time to consolidate and process the information absorbed throughout the day, which needless to say, cannot be performed while a person is awake. After training, instructors need to give time for trainees to struggle to understand the information presented. Allow students to sleep on it before returning to the subject or skill the next day.

Transferring information to long-term memory is crucial for law enforcement. This career path is filled with stressful, high emotion situations that require quick recall of laws, tactics and techniques. One way a student can prepare for and practice is through repeated use of our simulators. For ideas on how to train smarter with our relevant, lifelike scenarios, please contact us.

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