Which light is on top of the traffic light? Is it the Red or the Green? Your first thought, probably is that this is an easy question to answer. However, put yourself in this position—you are on one of the current quiz shows that pays a lot of money for correct answers. You must answer this question correctly to win the top prize. Now then, which light is on top, the Red or the Green?
If you have been able to picture yourself in the above position, you are probably hesitating now, because you're not really sure which light is on top, are you? If you are sure, then you're one of the minority who has observed what most people only see. There is a world of difference between seeing and observing; proven, of course, by the fact that most of the people to whom I put the above question, either give the wrong answer or are not sure. This, even though they see the traffic lights countless times every day! By the way, Red is always on top of the traffic light, Green is always on the bottom. If there is a third color, it is usually Yellow, for caution, and that one is always in the center. If you were sure that Red was the correct answer, let me see if I can't puncture your pride a bit with another observation test.
Don't look at your wrist watch! Don't look at your wrist watch, and answer this question:—Is the number six on your watch dial, the Arabic #6, or is it the Roman Numeral VI? Think this over for a moment, before you look at your watch. Decide on your answer as if it were really important that you answer correctly. You're on that quiz show again, and there's a lot of money at stake.
All right, have you decided on your answer? Now, look at your watch and see if you were right. Were you? Or were you wrong in either case, because your watch doesn't have a six at all!? The small dial that ticks off the seconds usually occupies that space on most modern watches.
Did you answer this question correctly? Whether you did or did not, you had to look at your watch to check. Can you tell now, the exact time on your watch? Probably not, and you just looked at it a second ago! Again, you saw, but you didn't observe.
Try this on your friends. Although people see their watches innumerable times every day, few of them can tell you about the numeral six.
Here's another one to try on your friends; but you'd better see if you can answer it first. If you are a cigarette smoker, you have seen a blue tax stamp on your pack of cigarettes each time you take it out to remove a cigarette. On this tax stamp is the picture of a man, and his name is printed under the picture.
For the top prize on our imaginary quiz show, name this man! I guess you'll have to leave the quiz show with only the consolation prize. I say this so definitely because only about two or three of the many people I've tested, have answered this one correctly. The man pictured on the revenue stamp is De Witt Clinton! Check it.
I don't want to be sneaky, but if you've just looked at the stamp and at the picture of De Witt Clinton, you must have seen what Clinton was doing with his left hand. You also saw, or probably saw, four letters, two on the upper left and two on the upper right of the stamp. I say that you saw these things, I don't think you observed them. If you did, you should be able to tell yourself right now, what De Witt Clinton is doing with his left hand, and also name the four letters.
Had to look again, didn't you? Now you've observed that his left hand is at Clinton's temple, as if he were thinking, and the letters are, U.S.I.R. for United States Internal Revenue.
Don't feel too badly if you couldn't answer any of these questions; as I said before, most people can't. You may recall a motion picture a few years ago which starred Ronald Colman, Celeste Holm and Art Linkletter. The picture was "Champagne for Caesar", and it was about a man who couldn't be stumped with any question on a quiz show. The finale of the film was the last question of the quiz, which was worth some millions of dollars. To earn these millions, Ronald Colman was asked to give his own social security number. Of course, he didn't know it! This was amusing and interesting, to me, anyway, since it struck home. It proves, doesn't it, that people see but do not observe? Incidentally, do you know your social security number?
Although the systems and methods contained in this book make you observe automatically, you will find some interesting observation exercises in a later chapter. The system will also make you use your imagination with more facility than ever before.
I've taken the time and space to talk about observation because it is one of the things important to training your memory. The other, and more important thing, is association. We cannot possibly remember anything that we do not observe. After something is observed, either by sight or hearing, it must, in order to be remembered, be associated in our minds with, or to, something we already know or remember.
Since you will observe automatically when using my system, it is association with which we will mostly concern ourselves.
Association, as pertaining to memory, simply means the connecting or tying up of two (or more) things to each other. Anything you manage to remember, or have managed to remember, is only due to the fact that you have subconsciously associated it to something else.
"Every Good Boy Does Fine." —Does that sentence mean anything to you? If it does, then you must have studied music as a youngster. Almost every child that studies music is taught to remember the lines of the music staff or treble clef, by remembering, "Every Good Boy Does Fine."
I've already stressed the importance of association, and I want to prove to you that you have used definite conscious associations many times before, without even realizing it. The letters, E, G, B, D and F don't mean a thing. They are just letters, and difficult to remember. The sentence, "Every Good Boy Does Fine" does have meaning, and is something you know and understand. The new thing, the thing you had to commit to memory was associated with something you already knew.
The spaces of the music staff were committed to memory with the same system; the initial system. If you remembered the word, "face", you remembered that the spaces on the staff are, F, A, C, and E. Again you associated something new and meaningless to something you already knew and to something that had meaning to you.
It is probably many years since you learned the jinglet, "Thirty days hath September, April, June and November, all the rest have thirty-one, etc.," but how many times have you relied on it when it was necessary to know the number of days in a particular month?
If you were ever taught to remember the nonsense word, "vibgyor," or the nonsense name, "Roy B. Giv," then you still remember the colors of the spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Green, Indigo and Violet. This again is the association and initial system.
I am sure that many times you have seen or heard something which made you snap your fingers, and say, "Oh, that reminds me. . . ." You were made to remember something by the thing you saw or heard, which usually had no obvious connection to the thing you remembered. However, in your mind, the two things were associated in some way. This was a subconscious association. Right now, I am pointing out a few examples of conscious associations at work; and they certainly do work. People who have forgotten many things that they learned in their early grades, still remember the spaces and lines of the treble clef. If you have read this chapter so far, concentrating as you read, you should know them by now, even if you've never studied music.
One of the best examples I know, is the one which was a great help to me in my early grade spelling classes. We were being taught that the word, "believe" was spelled with the e following the i. In order to help us to commit this to memory, we were told to remember a short sentence, "Never believe a lie."
This is a perfect instance of a conscious association. I know for a fact that many adults still have trouble spelling, "believe." They are never quite sure if the i is first, or if it is the e. The spelling of the word, "believe" was the new thing to remember. The word, "lie" is a word we all already knew how to spell. None of the students that heard that little sentence, ever again misspelled the word, "believe". Do you have trouble spelling the word, "piece"? If you do, just remember the phrase, "piece of pie." This phrase will always tell you how to spell, "piece".
Can you draw anything that resembles the map of England, from memory? How about China, Japan or Czechoslovakia? You probably can't draw any of these. If I had mentioned Italy, ninety percent of you would have immediately seen a picture of a boot in your mind's eye. Is that right? If you did, and if you draw a boot, you will have the approximate outline of the map of Italy.
Why did this picture appear in your mind's eye? Only because, at one time or another, perhaps many years ago, you either heard or noticed that the map of Italy resembled a boot. The shape of Italy, of course, was the new thing to remember; the boot was the something we already knew and remembered.
You can see that simple conscious associations helped you memorize abstract information like the above examples very easily. The initial system that I mentioned earlier, can be used to help you memorize many things. For example, if you wanted to remember the names of the Dionne quintuplets, you could try to remember the word, "macey". This would help you to recall that the girls' names are, Marie, Annette, Cecile, Emilie and Yvonne.
There's only one thing wrong with this idea in its present stage. There is nothing to make you remember that the word, "macey" is connected with the Dionne quintuplets, or vice versa.
If you remembered the word; fine, then you would probably know the names of the quints; but, how do you remember the word? I'll show you how to do this in future chapters.
The systems and methods in this book will show you how the principles and ideas of simple conscious associations can be applied to remembering anything. Yes, that's right— remembering anything, including names and faces, items, objects, facts, figures, speeches, etc. In other words, the systems and methods you will learn in this book, can be applied to anything and everything in every day social or business life.
Habit Is Memory