Have fun teaching about memory.

Most students find the idea of the unreliability of memory very interesting.  There is a lot of material in psychology that can help you make your memory lessons ‘unforgettable’.  Memory is one of the processes studied at the cognitive level of analysis, along with perception.  All relevant exam questions can be answered using either, so there is no need to teach both.

Key issues in memory are:

  • Theories and models of how memory operates and is organized.
  • Unreliability of memory
  • Role of emotion in memory (linked to unreliability).

Case studies, such as those of HM and Clive Wearing can arouse interest.  Either of these case studies may be  used to answer questions on how biological factors may affect memory, or on the unreliability of memory.

Flashbulb memory , originally proposed by Brown and Kulik in 1977, is the theory that memories accompanied by heightened emotions are better remembered.  It has been criticised by several psychologists, including Neisser (1982), but is still a powerful theory.  We feel as if emotional memories are both more vivid and more accurate, when it seems in fact we mistake vividness for accuracy.

As a start to the lesson, Memory games  can be fun.  Using a whiteboard or computer linked to a projector,  present one of these as an opener to the class.  Or project a picture and give students five minutes to look at and try to remember the items in it, and ‘test’ them at the end of the lesson.

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