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Problem solving techniques of memory indexing and summarization

Special personal problem solving processes for memorization - use of indexed memory

Memory indexing technique

A process is a series of steps or actions with a purpose - the expected outcome. It obviously is a more complex concept structure than either a rule or a rule-set.

Routinely we follow many processes. The process of brushing the teeth, placating an angry spouse, handling happy new year - all are routine processes however frequent or infrequent these may be. But occasionally, accidentally you may come across a process that helps you to come out of a tight spot.

This special process you remember because it helped you in solving a difficult problem. We call this type of process as a special personal problem solving process. These obviously have more complex concept structures than a problem solving rule or a rule-set.

A problem solving process can be expressed as a series of steps or actions.

These processes then form additional resource in your Problem Solving Armory resources. In future whenever you encounter the same problem context, you recall the effectiveness of the process you had used in the past to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem and use it again to solve your problem. With repeated successful use, belief on the process increases as well as its refinement.

Story of a trick to remember a name

I became quite confused when it happened the first time. I was about to make an urgent call to a person on my mobile. Just when I was going to start dialing, I found that I couldn't remember the name of the person at all. In confusion I tried hard to remember the name. I knew the call was important and it was in my own interest. But however much I tried, the desired name remained elusive. In today's world nobody remembers the mobile numbers of contacts in address book - one searches in the address book by the name of the person to call, and then makes the call. I tried to remember any person related to him. But with no success.

Unless I remember the name of the person I needed to call, I will miss something important. Even that I couldn't remember - the purpose of making the call.

Then it occurred to me, why not start from the first letter A in the alphabet and consider for a few seconds, whether I can remember the name in case it starts with letter A. If the first letter fails to produce a result, try the method on the second letter B. I carried on this way till suddenly, while on a particular letter, like a flash I remembered the desired name. I knew - surely the name began with the particular letter. Oh yes, this is the name I wanted to remember - I said silently and completed my urgent call. I may have had a bad memory, but still I survived due to an unusual process that came to my aid.

Once is not enough for you to believe the applicability of a new process. When you get the opportunity to use a special process again, you reuse it to test its sustainability.

In subsequent years I had used this special technique many times and it never failed to give me desired result. Repeated successful use of this special process finally made me a firm believer of the process. Now It is ingrained in my mental problem solving framework.

How the process worked

For some days my surprise lingered on - how the process really worked! Then I started analyzing. My conclusion was: "the names in my address book must have been indexed in my memory." That was the first time I got an idea of how contents are organized in our memory. There was no other conceivable reason behind the working of this process.

Indexes are small snippets or codes representing a particular piece of content. While a content is stored in the memory its index also is formed and stored in memory. The memory address of the main content is stored along with its small snippet of an index. When you select an index, it is easy to access the main content linked to the index in a flash.

Searching the memory on indexes is the quickest and most efficient mode unless you have loaded your current memory with all things you wanted to remember. In this mode, you home in to the desired index element of a concept or knowledge and, in a flash pick up the whole desired concept. After selecting a particular index, its corresponding content is fetched to the current memory for use. In simple terms, this is my visualization of how memory works. At least my memory works.

By this time I was quite well aware of computer databases and role of indexes in the working of large databases. But much earlier when I was in schools I knew nothing about computers and indexes.

Technique of Summarization

Summarization of a subject as a point list during exam preparation

When I was a student, after finishing the preparation of a subject just before the exam, I used to write a summary of important relevant points in the subject. It was a long list of points written in my own way on a three inch wide slip of paper.

While I was going through one or two pages of matter, when a concept finally got concluded itself satisfactorily and I understood it, immediately its essence formed in my mind in one or two lines and I wrote it dutifully in my slip notes. This way I attempted to capture the whole subject in my mind, but in compressed form. 

Forming the essence of concept in my mind was not enough - I had to write it down dutifully with all seriousness in my slip notes. This is the second step and is very important for final success of its objective. This action increases the strength of bonding between the index and its connected concept.

The third step was to scan the slip note in a few minutes when I went for my exam. Imagine my confidence! The whole subject I could refresh in my mind in a few minutes just before the exam. The confidence was enough, the process worked like a charm.

While answering the questions during the exam, like lightning whole pages that I summarized appeared in my mind. And I reproduced the matter without any pause or doubt. Obviously I always scored well in any exam (no, not only due to this technique, there are many special techniques for fast learning, permanent learning, powerful abstraction, outstanding reproduction and so on, it is a subject in itself). I felt quite comfortable and confident as far as memorization of the content was concerned. I have a firm belief that just this process of writing the summary points made recall so easy. Later when I came to know about indexing mechanism, my understanding got a firmer support.

Without memory indexing this method won't have worked so well.

During the last few years, I tried to induct one of my young frirnds to this method of forming a point list by summarization. He found it so helpful that he is continuing to use it during his progress through the exam hurdles. I am sure, this special technique is not so personal, many learners worldwide use it to a good effect.

Summarization of a book by indexing

Still later after going through the book Future Shock by Alvin Toffler, I set out to summarize its contents in handwritten four pages. Those four pages contained the gist of the whole book and going through the summary later was nearly like the experience of reading the whole book for me. That was also an Index. The Toffler book was not literature, it was on one basic concept that he highlighted in different ways with many case examples. That's why it was possible for me to summarize to that extent.

But it goes without saying that if someone reads my index of Toffler's book he won't have the concept driven home in his mind. That would be achieved only by reading the book.

Repetition of a concept and numerous case examples are necessary for a complex and novel concept to take root in our belief system and form a part of our knowledge base. There lies the importance of books and book reading. If you don't read books most likely your head is filled with fragmentary knowledge half of which you don't fully believe. Belief is vital.

If you know that your memory works on indexes, you may resort to creation and use of different types of external indexes. Summarization forms one such type of index.

Summarization as a problem solving technique

Here we have not used the term summarization as a problem solving technique. The formation of point list of a subject is not exactly a summary - rather it is an index or table of contents as it appears in a book. By picking up the points out of the subject matter as a whole you formed the point list or subject index. I loosely termed the process a summarization.

Summarization in itself is a powerful abstract problem solving technique that can be applied effectively in many different situations. We would later devote one or more than one article on this important technique. Here we have experienced just a little of its power but the main focus is not summarization - it is on forming memory indexing that is an altogether different mechanism for problem solving.  

For creating memory indexes, you must create a point by point list of the matter of interest. Each point may be as small as one single word or a few sentences connected to a uniquely identifiable piece of concept small or large. Most important in this process is the strength of bonding between the small index and its connected concept and their unique one to one relationship.