Towards a Better Memory: Update 3

Well, my project has finally come to a close (just in the nick of time). This has been an extremely enlightening experience and has given me the chance to learn about memory, but also the research process. Although it’s crucial to have an outline and an end goal, one of the most exciting parts of research is delving deeply into a side detail and seeing where it takes you. I had not originally planned to focus so much of the historical aspect of my project on non-literate cultures, but once I started reading about them I discovered they were the perfect foundation. Many other details I hadn’t thought to consider became key parts of my project as well: cultural emphasis on memory and Vedic scholars to name a few. For those of you interested, I have given a brief conclusion of all that I have learned about memory below:

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Update 2: Mnemonic devices in non literate cultures

The second wave of my memory research has been focused on investigating memory methods and overlying trends in a variety of historical civilizations. Originally, I planned to research a wide variety of cultures from varying times and places. However, I have realized it is also important to seek in-depth comprehension of the methods in a few societies that were most effective. After an initial overview of non-literate cultures, the Greeks and Romans, Asian cultures, and renaissance Europe, I decided to devote more time to a few non-literate people groups. Since they lacked a system of writing, they relied more heavily on memory, as it was the key to their survival. I researched many of their sophisticated mnemonic devices, and I will devote this blog post to explaining a few which were particularly interesting.

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Memory Mechanics

In my quest to understand how human capacity for memory has changed over time, I started by investigating the mechanisms behind how memory is formed, as well as reading primary research papers on factors that could influence memory. This research yielded a plethora of information, and to adequately explain all that I have learned of the details of memory framework here would be daunting to say the least. Instead, I will give a brief overview of some basic concepts; more complete information will be available in my final project.

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Evolution of Memory Capacity Over Time: Case Studies and Contributing Factors

Memory plays a major role in the lives of individuals and societal systems at large, impacting our capacity to learn, our history, and our cultural identity. Although human capacity to remember has always been an integral part of our existence, it has not been a stagnant characteristic. Memory capabilities and the way in which we employ them have evolved throughout time and space. In my research, I will examine the ways in which memory has changed and present possible factors to account for these changes. In order to fully understand the function of memory, I will first research memory theory and the brain chemistry involved. After gaining a basic understanding, I will begin case studies on memory in various civilizations: ancient (Rome, Greece, Egypt, China), intermediate (Arab empires, enlightened Europe, African kingdoms), and modern (United States, China, Europe). For each of these societies I will determine the basic memory capacity of individuals, although the method I will use for this is still undecided, and compile a list of societal factors that could influence this. Using this data, I will analyze trends in memory strength over time and space to discover the ways in which memory ability has waxed and waned. Finally, I will identify three to four common factors from the lists of case studies and further explore their influence on memory by reading relevant primary research papers. Some anticipated factors include diet and lifestyle, use of technology, and cultural emphasis on history. In conducting this research, I seek to understand what factors, if any, primarily impact an individual’s memory and to suggest possible methods to augment memory strength.