7 Tips to Total Recall

February 27th, 2013

Tony Buzan’s… Most Important Graph in the World

Allow me to introduce to you the Recall During Learning graph. Or as Tony Buzan would call it, the Most Important Graph in the World…

This graph is the bedrock for all global memory systems, a basis for creative thinking, and the theoretical foundation of Mind Mapping. It can improve and aid a broad range of areas, including public speaking, teaching, self-management, and of course memory. In this blog post we will become intimately acquainted with the graph, stripping it down to its components so that you can utilise it in your day to day life.

P: Primacy Effect

I am certain that at some point in your life you have heard, or been told ‘first impressions are the most important.’ This is a simple explanation of the Primacy Effect. The brain remembers best, from the beginning of a learning period, however long that timeframe may be, so the first impression is almost always retained. You always remember your important ‘firsts,’ which is why babies are such incredibly quick learners, simply, because they have so many of them.

How to Use It: Make a good first impression, whether in an interview or a presentation. Start with something memorable, uplifting or motivational, something that you want the audience to remember.

R: Recency Effect

This is, unsurprisingly, the opposite of the Primacy effect. You tend to remember things that have happened to you more recently, with more clarity. The graph predicts that you will remember your last holiday, what you last ate and the last time you saw a loved one with more detail than any other occasion. Indeed, that thing you were asked to do five minutes ago is still fresh in your mind, but feel free to read the rest of this post before doing it.

How to Use It: Remember to finish presentations, meetings etc. with something you want your audience to remember. Furthermore, taking regular breaks will give you an additional recency effect and an additional primacy effect which will allow for the audience to take more information in.

VR: Von Restorff Effect

The brain will remember something better if it stands out from the context, particularly a big, loud, multisensory image.
For example if I asked you to think of a man-made structure in Paris, most would answer with the Eiffel Tower and some perhaps with Notre Dame. None would answer ‘that small house on the Rue Monmatre with the black door I saw once’. Our brains remember the unique, the biggest and the best. Indeed if you look back over the highlights of your life, you are looking through your Von Restorffs.

How to Use It: Make yourself or your product unforgettable. Make the thing you want the audience to remember stand out, disrupt the flow of what you are saying with something loud or surprising. If you can do this then people will pay attention to it over similar products which may do exactly the same thing.

A: Association Effect

Your brain has a fantastic ability to make connections and will remember things far more clearly when they are associated with something else. The simplest way to create these links is by repetition, repeating something again and again leads to it becoming ingrained in your memory. To quote William Rastetter, CEO of IDEC Pharmaceuticals, ‘The first time you say something, it’s heard, the second time, it’s recognised, and the third time, it’s learned.’

How to Use It: Repetition, repetition, repetition. Repeat important information three times to ensure that it has been taken in by your target audience.

U: Understanding and Misunderstanding Effect

This is a tricky one so brace yourselves. Have you ever had a conversation where you know you said something, yet the other party knows you said something else? Everyone has, and normally it is not because one of you is just being awkward. It is because of this effect. Every individual creates different associations to different words and this can lead to different memories of the same situation. For example if I gave you the list; grass, soil, wood, branch, leaf, apple, twig; you read it just once and I came back to you a few minutes later, many of you would remember the word ‘tree’ even though it was not on the list. Your brain would make the association for you and you may have remembered something that was never there.

How to Use It: Everyone uses this effect automatically. We all make associations to different words, but many of us will make different associations to different words. I hear ‘beef’ and think ‘juicy steak,’ but for many Hindus and Buddhists this would not be the first association they would make. The best you can do is to be aware of this effect and realise that everyone will process information differently.

I: Interest Effect

Interest raises the entire curve on the Most Important Graph. The more interested you are in a subject, the more you will remember. Obvious I know, but if you are not interested in something then you will make fewer associations and, inevitably, remember less of it. The best learners of course, are children. This is because to begin with they are interested in everything, before we as adults (and teachers) condition them not to be. We tell them, ‘don’t touch that,’ ‘stop daydreaming,’ ‘be quiet,’ ‘that’s a pointless question,’ etc. Although this approach may discipline, it is not conducive to maintaining a child’s interest.

How to Use It: Get people interested and they will remember more. Encourage interactivity, let your audience voice their own opinions, show them how your subject matter will benefit them and that it is worthy of their interest.

M: Effect of Meaning

The smiley face on the graph represents the moment when we gain true insight into what we are learning,the meaning behind it and how we can apply it to our own lives. This is the moment when your brain brings together all the information that you have collected and forms a ‘big picture’ giving you understanding of a particular concept. Think of all the other laws of the Most Important Graph in the World as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle which your brain can fit together to create a complete ‘eureka’ moment of understanding.

How to Use It: Relevance is key. Show your audience the meaning of the information by using real life examples, stories and aspects of their own lives to show why this information is important and relevant to them.

If you have enjoyed this blog post and want to know more about Memory, why not join us at at our ThinkBuzan Memory Course where master of the mind, Tony Buzan will share with you his knowledge of the brain’s inner workings. You’ll also get plenty of coffee breaks…

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  1. When the book ‘Most Important Graph in the World’ was published I bought it immediately. The book gave me great insight into my behaviors and actions. Thanks for the refresher. Tim

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