That Awkward Moment
You know that awkward moment you meet someone for the first time and you go to call them by name; but its gone. You’re embarrassed. Then you spend the next hour calling them “hey you,” “girlfriend,” “dude,” “chica,” or “buddy.”
Or perhaps someone asks you to do the simple task of “remember this number” or a list of items, and how much work it can be to hold that information in the forefront of your mind? These simple yet easy tasks can be tricky at times, why is that?
Before I can answer that question, let’s develop a basic understanding of the first two memory functions.
Your Brain Builds Blind Spots
Every day we are constantly surrounded by imagery and noise, however, we are not necessarily aware of all that is happening around us at every given moment. Stop and listen to the sounds around you. Were you aware of those sounds before being told to consciously listen?
Take your nose for example. Your nose is a part of your visual field but you do not go around consciously thinking about your nose unless it is brought to your attention. The brain is a complex machine and likes to perform at high operating speed and will focus on what it deems as important in that current moment of time resulting in nixing out any information that is not necessary, like your nose or background sound.
The first intake of information goes through the sensory store then into the short-term- store (STS) section of memory. This STS is capable of holding onto information for a brief period of time. On average will hold onto information for about 12 -18 seconds before decay takes place; especially with information that you are receiving for the first time.
Short-Term Store also has the capacity to hold onto 7 pieces of information plus or minus 2 on each side. However, the more you are exposed to information the deeper the information is encoded into your Long-Term Memory Storage.
For something to “stick” to your memory, the information needs to be accompanied by another piece of information that is either important, emotionally charged or repetitive. This is why tricks like chunking or rehearsal are effective.
Memory Hacking – “Chunking”
Chucking is when we take a list of information and rearrange that list by grouping the items based on similarity or pattern. For example, read this list twice (only twice) and then try to recite it back:
“Shoes – Brush, Socks – Elephant, Hair – Trunk”
Pretty difficult wasn’t it? If you try to remember that list in that order you might have to apply some effort and study. However, if you were to arrange the list differently, in pairs, it’s much easier to retain. Try this one:
“Shoes – Socks, Hair – Brush, Elephant – Trunk”
See how much easier that was?!
Because the brain prioritizes efficiency, it’s ignoring certain information, it literally does not take in all of the information that surrounds us at all times. As a result, you only encode the gist of a situation in your memory.
This is why we forget a person’s name when we first meet them, our brain is overloaded with information – there’s too much interference! While you are being introduced you are most likely thinking about what you are going to say next. Your brain is most likely busy trying to process and filter all the new sensory information that is taken a place around you. Receiving new information and thinking about other things simultaneously bogs down the brain’s cognitive function which then interrupts processing someone’s name.
Because the brain likes to pair information with imagery thus tricks like mnemonics are successful tips for memorizing information.
The next time you are introduced to someone new; consciously be aware of their name and pair it with something meaningful. Whether that something is what they are wearing or an adjective of choice; Example, Red Russell, Tall Tim, Anxious Aaron or Beautiful Belle.
This should work like a charm and you don’t have to feel embarrassed the next time you go to “say” their name.
Make Your Marketing Memorable
The brain loves efficiency.
This is why alliteration and other mnemonic devices work well and are critical to your marketing message. Because information is chunked together in a nice little memory package for your brain, the likelihood of your audience retaining your marketing message skyrockets. Alliteration is efficient, even if it’s sometimes cheesy, it’s easy to recall.
I still think to this day of the poster I saw in all my classrooms growing up in the 90’s, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. I even bet if you take a moment you will be able to recall many alliterated sayings that you have heard before. That’s good marketing!
Brand strategists, journalists, and studios all use alliteration, just think about it!
- Back in Black by AC/DC
- Dunkin’ Donuts
- Best Buy
And the list goes on. But remember the one critical rule:
Alliteration is always awesome as long as it’s not abused.
Knowing this, why not see if you can work some memory tricks into your next blog title, your next subject line, or your next PowerPoint training?