Study Less , Learn More Part 4

Why do Names of Carpel Bones remind Lulu of a boat, a full moon , an empty cube ...?

How much imagination do you use while learning your subjects ?

If I talk of a beating heart , can you imagine that ? Yes !
Reason ? You've seen animations of beating heart numerous times . Its easy !

If I ask you to name the types of muscles in the body , you'll easily recall them as bipennate ,  cruciate , trianglar etc etc . Right ?
Reason ? You've seen the diagrams in GA . Good !

Now if I ask you to imagine the NAMES of tarsals or say the carpels , can you imagine THAT ? Not that easy !
Reason ?  They have no animation. No diagrams either. You have no mental imagery for them. They are just a heap of alien-sounding words. Aren't they ?

Be it the Latin-Greekish terms for gazillions of tissues in Anatomy or tongue-twisting names of drugs in Pharma, students find it hardest to memorize and retain them. Reason ? There is no underlying pattern or STORY of the information.They are unrelated chunks that have to be memorized somehow.

Is there a tool that can make these random , unrelated & dull chunks of information more palatable, manageable , memorable and retrievable?

Yes there is. And the tool is

Mental Animations !

Animations means to think of abstract and unmeaning words as images. Then linking these images with each other to form a bizarre story .The story has to imagined vividly. Recalling the story will help you recall the concerned words.Its a reliable and interesting way of remembering things.Here are the three stages of making animations.

Stage 1 : Paper Pictures

The first step is to draw a picture on the paper that would help visualize the concept / words you're learning.It doesn't have to be precise accurate piece of art. As long as it helps you IMAGINE, its doing the trick

Stage 2 : Mental Images

Visualize the pictures in your mind's eye. From paper , transfer them to your mind. Its easier and quicker to imagine than draw . But if you're having difficulty in imagining the abstract , drawing it first would be helpful.

Step 3 : Make the images dance in an animation !

You'd like to add two things here. Sensory details and motions . Sensory details means colours , sounds , texture , smell or even taste. Motions doesn't have to linear. It includes everything like something dropping in or whooshing out of the animation.

How to manage overload of tedious terms?
Turn them into images.
      Our mind can save images better than words.


 Practice Making Animations :

Lets try to remember the names of carpel bones using animations.

Stage 1 : Paper Pictures

Here you'll read the name and think of the first object/scenario the name reminds you of. Sketch that object on paper. Just follow the example.

Scaphoid : It means BOAT LIKE. Draw a boat. Just like a beautifully written BAY , the second Hrf of urdu.Stage 1

Image : Side view of a BOAT

Lunate : It reminds me of the word Lunar. That means MOON. So draw a FULL MOON.Where is the moon with relation to the boat ? Perhaps its sitting in the boat. You can draw the moon anywhere . Shinning above the boat or beside it etc. But having it sitting in the boat makes it easier to recall for me.

 Image :  a FULL MOON sitting in a boat

Triquetrum : Lets break it into its syllables. Tri - quet - rum. Meaning Try (a) quiet room. Now thats tricky to draw . Lets draw a CUBE to represent a room . Its empty so its must be QUIET .

Image : Someone's going to TRY a QUIET ROOM for meditation perhaps.

Pisiform : Lets break it into syllables Pisi-form . PISI reminds me of Pees meaning To Grind and FORM obviously means the physical FORM of anything.So something that GRINDS the FORM of a body. What could that be ?
Perhaps a Hammer . Draw a hammer.

Image : A hammer that grinds the FORM of solid bodies.GRIND remind of the word Pees and that in turn  of PISI.

Trapezium : Its a geometrical shape. A quadrilateral  having unparallel sides. So draw a Trapezium

Image : a trapezium

Trapezoid : Its again a geometrical shape having one set of parallel sides. But we'll confuse it with trapezium so lets try to imagine something else. Break it into syllables TRAPE-ZOID. TRAPE means A TRAP . Can we draw a CAGE to represent a TRAP ? yes !  And what about ZOID ? ZOID literally means a single-celled flagellated organism. So lets draw a cell with a flagella to represent ZOID . You may like to make a sad Zoid !( because its imprisoned ! )

Image : A SINGLE-CELL inside a CAGE 

Capitate : CAPI -tate . Capi reminds me of a smallish cap . So draw a small CAP.

Image : A small Cap

Hook of Hamate : Thats simple. Draw a hook .

Image : A metallic HOOK . Perhaps like the one pirates have inserted in place of their amputated hand.

Stage2 : Mental Pictures

Simply imagine each object in your mind. A BAY-shaped boat . A FULL moon sitting in it. An EMPTY CUBE. A HAMMER . A TRAPEZIUM . A ZOID inside a CAGE. A HOOK.

Stage 3 : Animation Making

We'd like to add sensory details and motions. Lets add them as we imagine a scenario in which all the images link to each other.

1st the BOAT Its wooden. Perhaps when you knock it with your knuckles , it give a crisp TAK TAK  (try tapping the computer table to listen to the sound ) Perhaps it has whorl-like patterns on it too. It has a rough texture.

Perhaps the FULL MOON is sitting inside the boat. It is white and shinning brightly.Perhaps it has a meditative face too.No sounds,texture or smell here .

The MOON sitting in the BOAT floats to an EMPTY CUBE ( perhaps a glass CUBE) saying : I want to TRY (a) QUIET ROOM for meditation.

A HAMMER comes down and breaks the CUBE. * Glass-breaking *
 Did your ears hear the loud ear piercing sound ! ? Did you feel the broken pieces of glass hitting your face ? Did you smell the dust in the air ( the dust that fills the air after something is destroyed... )

The scene clears away. Now instead of a CUBE , you have a TRAPEZIUM ( the link is that both are basic shapes ).Perhaps a red trapezium.

Inside is a CAGE .perhaps a cylindrical and metallic cage.  Inside the CAGE is the ZOID.

He is weraing a small CAP .

Zoid has a potato like body . Sprouting out of the body are small legs and arms . Inserted on one arm is a HOOK . A shiny stainless steel HOOK ! His hooked arm is projecting out of the cage and he is shaking it furiously to get free.The hook strikes the metallic cage.Do you hear the TINKLING as the metals strike ?

The Zoid is saying something , spit droplets shooting in every direction you feel the drop falling on your face ? Suddenly the zoid transforms into Sir Suhail's face .He is saying something too : Excellent ! I can see you've studied ,call the next student ...

Okay the last para was a joke.But the rest was NOT .What were the names of the carpels again ?

At each step you seek to make the image memorable by imagining vivid sensations. Adding motions help you to link the images together.

Basically there are 3 ways to relate a word to an image :

 1. Sound-like method  It means to think of the first image that sounds like the word concerned e.g CAPItate reminds of capi or smallish cap
2. Splitting the word into syllables .Each syllable sounding like a word that can be imagined e.g, Triquetrum (see explanation above)
 3. Look for the image in the literal meaning of the word.e.g Scaphoid : boat-like

Is it over-simplification ? Yes , you're BANG right on target !

 Some of you would recognize the technique as something you already use at one time or another.Some words and descriptions automatically stimulate the reader to relate images  and models with the words.The point is to use this tool where it doesn't  seem to occur spontaneously.There will be , no doubt , others who think this technique is too nutty or childish to use .Think again.

Einstein used to describe the complex concept of space and time as threads interwoven into each-other.He visualized abstract terms as vivid images. Daniel Tammet , a famous mathematician used the same tactic. He reports numbers 238 as ugly and 333 as beautiful.What are all these genius-minds doing ? Visualizing the dull and the abstract as something tangible and workable. So why not you ?
When you add sensory detail , motions and even emotions to the visualization , the vague words transform into your EXPERIENCE .More than a memory , its an experience we're looking for.By the bye let  me quote Bertrand Russel :

       Events transform into experience by the interest we take in them 

Next time you're sitting in Anatomy , Pharmacology  or Toxicology class and realize to your dismay that the the lecture has no concept whatsoever . There's only lists and lists of dry names to be crammed. Stop taking notes .Pick up a list of words and start making animations out of them.Perhaps thats the best way to utilize a lecture such as that. You can try making them while traveling or shifting to class-room 

Animating takes time...lots of time...doesn't it ?

Yes it does . But only in the beginning. Once you get used to using the technique , it becomes easier to decode words into images &  you can visualize the images directly without paper drawings. Moreover , once you've learnt something through animations , what are your the risks of forgetting it ? O.ooo1% ! Before exams , a quick glance at your paper pics will kick-start the memory cycle ,pouring out all the info
effortlessly !  No more panicky revisions , no more leaky crammings !

A word of caution :

Most people stop at half-cooked animations.They don't feel the need to go beyond stage 2. But its actually the stage 3 that makes the entire thing more memorable , more palatable and more retrievable. Once you walk , walk the entire way .

Useful Links: 

                                        If you get stuck , use these

                                                      sources to boost your imagination

This video demonstrates how you can link random words into a vivid animation.It tells how can you add EMOTIONS like panic , surprise etc into it to make it more memorable.

Its actually a mnemonic dictionary.You can see how various words are split into syllables that springs up an imagery or scenario in mind .Its simply fantastic !

Now you know why the names of Carpels remind Lulu of a boat , a moon and an empty cube !

                 So heres the bumper-sticker of the day

                                Mental Animations For Dull Data
              Our Legal License to Doodle ,Daydream & Digest  !


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  1. sadaf bahna i appreciate u for writing such article.A new idea of memorizing things it is and i think it will b helpful for memorizing things for a long period.i remember when i was in first year the names of carpel bones were on my finger tips.IN 2nd year i could recall all names but with little effort.A few days back i could recall only five of these.TWO were missing at all in my mind.i think ur method of memorizing things is little difficult if somone is concerned with time required for it but once u have practiced it,u can recall even years after..excellent mate;keep it up.

  2. I have to test if it works... I dread i m gona rembr the all the stories n lose al the biological links to thm... :p stil i m gona try dis :)

  3. interesting stuff sadaf! :) I think anonymous is right, this way might take time but'll help for long term memory-ism.. and a bit of doodling is always fun ;)

  4. @ Anonymous THANK YOU SO MUCH for the energizing feed-back .What an earnest memory retriever you are !

    @Maira LOLS at your apprehensions ! Aazmaish shrt hai :p

    @Captain! First artificial-ism , now memory-ism! With that gloss of novelty continued , a PIRATED mocktionary will soon hit the markets ! :p

    The time taken to make-up a Linked Animation would be definitely less than that consumed in trying to memorize unrelated chunks of info.Either memorize afresh every time or make a reliable link on first attempt.But that obviously wouldn't be a good choice if you've got a single night to study before the substage or any other such emergency situ. :D

    Mostly greekish-latinish names can be recalled easily because they are present in the WORKING memory (those brutally repeated sub-stages do have an effect after-all ! ) But later they escape the memory just as easily. Thats where the back-up of animations come in handy.

    It does take time to dish-up your animation as something presentable to others, but hey ! how many minutes it takes to imagine that just for yourself ? Try and share :)

  5. Look,I kept my promise :).
    Ur article's really good,and the tips u gave are great! And I love the fact that u pepper your points with those cute(and relevant) pictures!
    BTW,thnx for the comment on my blog .Now That's what I call an "Informed comment"!! :)

  6. Lol Yes you kept your promise, now its time for me to keep mine :p
    This is what I call a stimulating comment !
    Gracia for your kind words ! :)

  7. Waow sadaf i read your article and now i realize it that's how i always remeber my formulas even today. If i have to learn any date i always relate it to my family member's date of birth. Recently i need to learn the cut off points in Moving average i related it to my friend marium ashraf(M.A) and mould the entire lecture and relate every charactetstics to her habits:)


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