What’s the number 7 got to do with our memory?

Apparently a lot.

It turns out that just like a computer has RAM (short-term or working memory), we do too. And in this RAM of our brain we can store 7 discrete things.

Of course, that is an average number. But most people can store 7 plus minus 2 things in their working memory. And just to prove that i am not kidding, close your eyes now and reread the last sentence in your head. Got it? Good. Now close your eyes and try to do the same for the sentence before that. Got it? Well, our working memory is limited.

That is unless you practice to improve it.

From Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein

Best way to remember names

Associate names with a powerful visual image. Reagan with ray guns. Lincoln with chain links. Manmohan with a smiling brain. It can be more powerful if you place this image in your mind at the place you came to know about their name.

Now read on to know why this technique works. Here is the Baker-baker paradox which helped develop the best way of remembering names:

A researcher shows two people the same photograph of a face and tells one of them that the guy is a baker and the other that his last name is Baker. A couple days later, the researcher shows the same two guys the same photograph and asks for the accompanying word. The person who was told the man’s profession is much more likely to remember it than the person who was given his surname.

This happens because:

When you hear that the man in the photo is a baker, that fact gets embedded in a whole network of ideas about what it means to be a baker: He cooks bread, he wears a big white hat, he smells good when he comes home from work. The name Baker, on the other hand, is tethered only to a memory of the person’s face. That link is tenuous, and should it dissolve, the name will float off irretrievably into the netherworld of lost memories. 

From Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein