building strong memory 6
Dr. Schweitzer and reciting. Dr. Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary doctor who set up a large hospital and leper colony in Africa, used the technique of recitation when prescribing pills and medicine to his patients in the Congo. He would have a patient repeat the instructions for taking the medicine ten times before permitting the patient to go back to his native village.
Recitation and the ancient Greeks. In several of the dialogues of Plato we find reference to the reciting technique. Here
Critias is speaking to Socrates:
“I thought that I must first of all run over the narrative in my own mind, and then I would speak.” In the next paragraph, Critias continues: I listened at the time with childlike interest to the old man’s narrative; he was very ready to teach me, and I asked him again and again to repeat his words, so that like an indelible picture they were branded into my mind. As soon as the day broke, I rehearsed them as he spoke them …
How recitation works. Recitation transfers material to the secondary memory. While you are reading the words in a sentence or paragraph, the primary memory (short-term memory) holds them in mind long enough for you to gain the sense of the sentence or paragraph. However, the primary memory has a very limited capacity, and as you continue to read, you displace the words and ideas of the initial paragraphs with the words of subsequent paragraphs. This is one reason for not remembering everything in the first part of the chapter by the time we reach the end of the chapter when we read continually without pausing to recite.
It is only when we recite or contemplate the idea conveyed by a sentence or paragraph that the idea has a chance (not
guaranteed) of moving on into the secondary memory (a long-term storage facility).
All verbal information goes first into the primary memory (short-term memory). When it is rehearsed (recited), part of it goes into our secondary (long-term) memory. The rest of it, usually the part we are least interested in, returns to the primary memory and is then forgotten. Figure 2 illustrates the entire process. Whether new information is “stored” or “dumped” depends, then, on our reciting it out loud and on our interest in the information. FORGOTTEN STIMULUS PRIMARY MEMORY SECONDARY MEMORY REHEARSAL The Primary and Secondary Memory Systems