How To Remember Telephone Numbers

By: Martin Mak

The question of the capacity of short term or? immediate memory was one which preoccupied a number of philosophers during the 19th century.? Sir William Hamilton, for example, observed that if we flung a handful of marbles on the ground, the maximum number that could be perceived reasonably accurately would be about seven.? The first systematic experimental work to be done on this problem was carried out in 1887 by a London school teacher, J. Jacobs, who was interested in measuring the mental capacity of his pupils.? He conceived of a technique, the digit span, which has played an important role in psychology ever since.? The subject is presented with a sequence of digits and required to repeat them back in the same order, the length of the sequence is steadily increased until a point is reached at which the subject always fails; the sequence length at which they are right half the time is defined as his digit span.?

You can try this experiment for yourself.? Read out loud the sequences shown below at a steady rate.? After each sequence, close your eyes and try to repeat the numbers in the correct order.? Note in each case whether you get the sequence completely correct or not.? If you do, move on to the next length of sequence.? If you make a mistake, try the next sequence of the same length, and continue testing yourself until you reach a length at which you are always wrong.? Your span is the length at which performance reaches its limit, which for present purposes can be regarded as the longest sequence you recall correctly on at leas one of the three attempts.

8 7 5 3

4 9 2 5

3 5 1 4

6 4 6 1 8

9 7 2 5 9

2 8 1 6 7

7 2 3 8 2 5

9 4 8 5 7 3

7 9 6 8 5 3

4 9 5 6 4 1 2

7 3 1 9 8 4 6

5 9 2 8 7 4 6

9 6 8 5 1 2 7 3

7 1 5 3 9 6 2 8

3 1 5 9 8 7 4 2

9 1 7 3 8 1 2 6 4

6 1 2 9 7 4 8 5 3

2 6 5 9 3 4 8 6 2

5 1 9 2 4 8 3 1 2 6

8 1 4 5 7 5 6 9 1 3

3 4 2 8 5 6 3 7 8 1

Studies show that most people can manage six or seven digits, but there is quite a large range of capacity, with some people managing only four or five and others getting up to ten or more.? Of course, the laboratory tests for which these experiments were carried out were in? much more controlled conditions than this.

If you speak the sequences aloud, you will probably do somewhat better than if you simply read them to yourself.? The reason for this is that articulating and hearing the sounds of the numbers registers them in a brief auditory memory store, thus improving your memory.? Your auditory memory can even be used to train your memory.

You can also improve your performance by grouping the digits rhythmically.? This technique appears to help reduce the tendency to recall them in the wrong order.? Studies comparing different modes of grouping seem to come up with the conclusion that grouping in threes is best and that even a tiny gap between successive groups is helpful, provided the listener can hear it.? So if you re telling someone your telephone number and you want to ensure that they write it down correctly, group it in threes, or if it is not divisible by three, in threes and twos.? Once you have done so, you would be wise to check it, since there is a surprisingly high error rate in copying telephone numbers, even when we are simply remembering a number for the brief period needed to copy it from one sheet of paper to another.

Of course, you can pick up a good memory strategy to help you remember long chains of numbers.? Such memory techniques are helpful not only to remember numbers.? The mechanics of which once learnt, can help you remember long lists, study assignmentsFeature Articles, complicated formulas and historical dates.? These memory methods to improve memory are just as useful in our professional lives as well as in our everyday lives.

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