We’re inundated with information these days. So much so that we typically don’t even attempt to remember anything – we just rely on technology to keep track of everything.
Sometimes, however, it’s critical to remember something so that we can reference it in the moment. In these circumstances, there are two key approaches: repetition and association.
Remember those vocabulary word flash cards from elementary school? That’s repetition, and it’s still a cornerstone of information retention. But what happens when we don’t have that time for repetition?
The association approach can be more time efficient, but it takes a bit of creativity. As an example, memory game world record holders (yes, this is a real thing) use mental imagery to make associations. They mentally walk from room to room, scanning items in sequence in that room, with each item being associated with a certain concept. We already know our house, so we can associate what we already know with what is harder to remember.
But what if you want someone else to remember something? Here we should rely on two other conduits of information retention: novelty and emotional appeal.
There is a much higher likelihood that audiences will retain information when we tell a unique and interesting story. Additionally, information gets more deeply encoded when we’re experiencing intense emotions. It’s no wonder that video content is on the rise and the art of storytelling has become a staple of executive education.
If you’re struggling to remember the four approaches to information retention, remember the word “near.” N = novelty, E = emotional appeal, A = association, and R = repetition. Congratulations, you just experienced an association.