In this guest post, Thomas Jones, a Psychology student who spent some time working with us at the ThinkBuzan Headquarters, applies his know-how to Mind Mapping and the cognitive processes and theories behind the technique…
Mind mapping is one of the most powerful tools in anyone’s arsenal when it comes to remembering vast quantities of information; it provides the user with their own personal tree of knowledge on a subject of their choice.
Semantic Network Model
One of the ideas behind Mind Maps is Semantic Network Models (Collins & Quillian, 1969) which says that everyone has their own personal spider’s web, connecting everything they know about objects together, e.g. Red is connected to fire, blood, love. If one section of the networking models is activated, the surrounding links are activated. Our own personal experiences shape these connections and everybody’s semantic network models are different. Mind Mapping takes a certain subject and links everything a person knows about this subject together. This provides a vast quantity of information on one subject on a single page.
Why Remembering is so Hard
Atkinson and Schiffrin (1968) founded the theory of the Multi Store Model, which was based on the idea that memory passes through 3 stages. Sensory memory is the first stage of the Multi Store Model and this is where all of the information gathered from our senses is initially collected. This information is passed on to our short term memory which, if recalled, can be processed in our long term memory and retained for longer periods of time.
It is in the short term memory centre where problems occur when revising information. Miller (1956) discovered that the short term memory store can only hold approximately 7 pieces of information and this information must then be rehearsed if you are to retain it. This is why last minute revision is such a difficult task. It is near impossible to retain so much information just from listing or reading the information yourself. In order to remember everything, you must identify ways to connect the information.
How to Remember Things
One of the main models for memory is known as the Working Memory Model (Baddeley and Hitch, 1974) which claims that the mind has separate areas to do certain tasks. For example, the Visuo-spatial sketchpad analyses the visual world that surrounds us and take in information based on colour, shape, movement, and location. It is the component that prevents us from bumping into objects, recognising faces and other important factors that determine the way we interpret the world. The sketch pad registers stimuli which grab our attention. The more attention we pay to a stimuli, the more likely it is that we will remember it. However, it can backfire making us forget the duller features in our environment which are also important.
The basic rules for memories to be remembered are that they must fall into at least one of the following categories:
These factors help us remember exceptional events in real life. For example, if you repeat a certain action every morning (eat cereal) then you can vividly visualise eating cereal with ease. You are also more likely to recall information such as phone numbers if you chunk the digits together (01234-567-890).
The easiest way to exploit all of the categories is with a Mind Map.
Why Mind Maps Help
ThinkBuzan’s iMindMap software takes full advantage of this information and allows you to draw the connections between information, highlight important pieces of information and thus gives you the opportunity to remember vast quantities of information at ease.
Recalling the 4 rules above, Mind Mapping incorporates all of these. Other revision methods only utilise 1 or 2.
This is the easiest rule to follow while creating Mind Maps because it is automatically done while creating the map. The physical creation of the Mind Map helps us visualise the map in our head when sitting in the exam room or presenting a speech. It’s easier to recall information because you follow the branches to the points you are trying to make.
If you want to remember a really specific piece of information in your Mind Map, make it stand out. Change the colour of the branch to one you haven’t used or add a picture or diagram to help you remember it. One of the most powerful techniques is to add humour. If you have an emotional connection to a specific piece of information, especially a positive one like humour, it is more likely to stand out in your mind.
Although the actual creation of the Mind Map will help recall a lot of information, you will still have to revise the map thoroughly. Repeating information and identifying the connections is a good way to remember information in the long run.
The branches are a simple and visually stimulating way to take a subject and chunk of all of the vital points into one neat section. You can use arrows to link certain piece of information together which are on separate branches. This trail helps you to make essays or speeches flow as you can see the relationship between the branches. In essay writing, this is especially important as you can prioritise the amount of time spent writing about key pieces of information and making the information which you include relevant.
One Last Thing – DIY
This last piece of advice and it gets its own title because I cannot stress enough how important this is. To get the maximum memorable benefits you have to create your own Mind Map rather than share someone else’s. Like the semantic network model, it should be your own interpretation of information. You will find it more difficult to understand someone else’s Mind Map as the way they associate and connect information may not be familiar to you. It takes hardly any time to create a Mind Map and it will save you far more time revising the information, so no excuses!